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NBA award finalists unveiled: LeBron James not up for MVP

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 5/20/2017 AJ Neuharth-Keusch, USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts during the first half against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. © Chris Humphreys, USA TODAY Sports Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts during the first half against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center.

Surprise: Russell Westbrook and James Harden are among the finalists for the NBA's 2016-17 Most Valuable Player award.

The three-player list, which was unveiled on TNT Friday night, also includes Kawhi Leonard. Four-time MVP LeBron James, who put together his best statistical season since rejoining the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, was left off.

The award finalists, and winners, are determined by a panel of NBA media members. Ballots were submitted before the start of the playoffs.

Westbrook, of course, became just the second player in NBA history to average a triple-double for an entire season, while Harden led the high-octane Houston Rockets to 55 wins behind 29.1-point, 11.2-assist, 8.1-rebound averages. They were widely considered to be neck-and-neck at the top of the MVP race for the majority of the season.

Leonard posted 25.5-point, 5.8-rebound, 3.5-assist averages for the 61-win San Antonio Spurs and strengthened his case as the best two-way player in the league. James averaged 26.4 points, 8.7 assists, 8.6 rebounds and shot 54.8% from the field, but the Cavaliers struggled at times throughout the season, particularly defensively, and finished as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. This is the first time James has been outside of the top three in MVP voting since 2007-08, when he finished fourth.

Finalists for the league's other regular season awards, which are listed below, were also announced during the 90-minute segment prior to Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Rookie of the Year

  • Joel Embiid (center, Philadelphia 76ers)
  • Malcolm Brogdon (guard, Milwaukee Bucks)
  • Dario Saric (forward, Philadelphia 76ers)

Defensive Player of the Year

  • Kawhi Leonard (forward, San Antonio Spurs)
  • Rudy Gobert (center, Utah Jazz)
  • Draymond Green (forward, Golden State Warriors)

Sixth Man of the Year

  • Eric Gordon (guard, Houston Rockets)
  • Andre Iguodala (forward, Golden State Warriors)
  • Lou Williams (guard, Los Angeles Lakers/Houston Rockets)

Most Improved Player

  • Rudy Gobert (center, Utah Jazz)
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (forward, Milwaukee Bucks)
  • Nikola Jokic (center, Denver Nuggets)

Coach of the Year

  • Erik Spoelstra (Miami Heat)
  • Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs)
  • Mike D'Antoni (Houston Rockets)

The award winners will be announced during the inaugural NBA Awards show, which will air live from New York's Basketball City on June 26 on TNT after the conclusion of the NBA Finals.

Follow USA TODAY Sports' AJ Neuharth-Keusch on Twitter @tweetAJNK


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