Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James left off MVP short list as NBA announces awards finalists


The Most Valuable Player award will come down to Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard while LeBron James was snubbed.

James was left out of the MVP award running on Friday when the NBA announced finalists for each of its six big season awards on TNT.

The Cavaliers star set career-highs in assists (8.7) and rebounds per game (8.6) this season. Despite becoming the third player to average 25 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists per game while shooting 50 percent from the floor in a single season, James will not be able to win a fifth MVP award.

Oklahoma City’s Westbrook and Houston’s Harden have been considered the top two contenders for the Most Valuable Player award. With Kevin Durant moving on to Golden State, Westbrook joined Oscar Robertson as the only players to average a triple-double in a season, finishing with 42 triple-doubles, breaking Robertson’s previous single-season record of 41 in 1961-62.

Westbrook led the NBA in total points and was second in total assists, averaging 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists and the Thunder went 33-9 when he recorded a triple-double. Harden became the first player to score 2,000 points and assist on 2,000 points in a season in NBA history, creating the most points per game (scored or assisted) in the NBA this season with 56.2.

Harden finished first in total assists and second in total points, averaging 29.1 points, 11.2 assists, 8.1 rebounds and 1.5 steals this season.

Leonard, who has won the last two Defensive Player of the Year awards, led the Spurs to 60 wins for the second straight year for the first time in franchise history. He averaged 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals as the Spurs’ leader on offense and defense.

The Sixth Man of the Year award will come down to Golden State forward Andre Iguodala and Houston’s pair of guards Eric Gordon and Lou Williams. Iguodala posted his highest player efficiency (14.4) in four seasons in Golden State, averaging 7.6 points. Gordon made the fourth-most 3-pointers (246) this season while Williams averaged an NBA-best 17.6 points per game off the bench this season.

Milwaukee’s talented Giannis Antetokounmpo is a leading candidate to win the Most Improved Player award. Antetokounmpo became just the fifth player in NBA history to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals, joining LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Scottie Pippen and Dave Cowens. Denver center Nikola Jokic, who averaged 16.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 57.8 percent shooting while posting six triple-doubles, and Utah center Rudy Gobert, who increased his scoring average from 9.1 points to 14.0 and averaged a career-high 12.8 rebounds, are also finalists for Most Improved.

Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Dario Saric and Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon are finalists for Rookie of the Year. Embiid might’ve sealed this award up had he been able to stay healthy. Embiid was limited to 31 games due to injury, averaging 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds. Saric came on in Embiid’s absence, averaging 12.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists. Brogdon was pleasant surprise for the Bucks. Drafted 36th overall in the second round, Brogdon averaged 10.2 points and 4.2 assists and led rookies in steals and assists.

Houston’s Mike D’Antoni, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich and Miami’s Erik Spoelstra are the candidates for Coach of the Year. D’Antoni’s Rockets went 55-27 and made a record 1,181 3-pointers. They also averaged 115.3 points this season. Popovich led the Spurs to 60 wins for the second straight season and a 20th-consecutive playoff appearance, tying Phil Jackson for most consecutive postseason appearances by a coach in NBA history. Spoelstra orchestrated a NBA-record turnaround, going from an 11-30 start to a furious 30-11 finish to reach 41-41. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the 19 games under .500 start was the biggest gap that a team has rebounded from to reach .500, shattering the previous record of 12 games under.

Defensive Player of the Year finalists include Golden State’s Draymond Green, San Antonio’s Leonard and Utah’s Gobert. Green led the NBA with a career-high 2.03 steals and was second in defensive real plus-minus (5.03) this season. He was second in defensive win shares (5.4) this season and second with 3.9 deflections per game. According to player tracking data, Green limited opponents to 44-percent shooting at the rim, behind only Rudy Gobert and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Leonard hopes to join Dwight Howard as the only player to win Defensive Player of the Year honors three years in a row. Leonard was sixth in defensive win shares (4.7) and averaged 1.8 steals and 3.4 deflections per game. According to ESPN Stats and Info, Leonard allowed only 40 isolation points total this season and faced only 43 isolation plays.

Gobert led the NBA in defensive win shares (6.0), defensive real plus-minus (6.01), blocks (2.6) and in field goal percentage allowed at the rim this season (43.9). Averaged a career-high 12.8 rebounds (fourth in NBA) and contested 14.2 shots per game.

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