NBA awards finalists announced: Giannis, Luka, LeBron, Zion all up for hardware

Jason Owens
·3 mins read

The NBA announced the finalists for its six individual awards on Saturday including MVP, Rookie of the Year and Coach of the Year.

Each award has three finalists. Voting for the awards was conducted by media prior to the start of bubble play, meaning only games played before the league’s COVID-19 hiatus were considered. Sorry, T.J. Warren.

There weren’t a lot of surprises with Saturday’s announcement that included a familiar list of awards candidates.

Harden joins Giannis, LeBron as MVP finalists

As expected, heavy favorite Giannis Antetokounmpo was joined by anticipated silver medalist LeBron James as a finalist for Most Valuable Player. The third spot wasn’t as clear, but voters liked 2018 MVP and league scoring leader James Harden better than other long shots like Kawhi Leonard, Luka Doncic and Anthony Davis.

The NBA announced the finalists for its six individual awards on Saturday. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
The NBA announced the finalists for its six individual awards on Saturday. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Tight race for Most Improved Player

Doncic didn’t make the MVP list, but the 2019 Rookie of the Year isn’t locked out of the hardware race. He’s joined by Bam Adebayo and Brandon Ingram for Most Improved Player, which may be the most competitive of the awards race.

Each player made significant strides over last season while contributing to improved team success.

Pair of Clippers battle for Sixth Man

A Los Angeles Clipper will likely be named Sixth man of the year with Montrezl Harrell and three-time winner Lou Williams nominated as the league’s top reserve. Dennis Schroder also got the nod for his scoring prowess off the Thunder bench as Oklahoma City has been one of the league’s biggest surprises.

Will Giannis double dip?

Antetokounmpo looks to join extreme rarified air by winning MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. The Milwaukee Bucks superstar is a favorite for both awards and would be only the third player in NBA history to win both in the same season, joining Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon. He’ll have to beat out defensive stalwarts Davis and Rudy Gobert to do so.

Zion Williamson exceeded expectations when he was on the court, but Ja Morant won't be denied. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Zion Williamson exceeded expectations when he was on the court, but Ja Morant won't be denied. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Nunn joins Zion, Ja in ROTY race

It’s a testament to his massive impact on the New Orleans Pelicans and the NBA that Zion Williamson even made this list after sitting the first three months of the season. But his long-shot hopes of overtaking Ja Morant were dashed when the league nixed bubble play from the awards mixed. The Grizzlies point deserves and will take home the hardware for his exceptional season. Kendrick Nunn gets a nod for his breakout with the Miami Heat after joining the league as an undrafted rookie.

Will Nurse beat out NBCA Coach of the Year winners?

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer and Thunder coach Billy Donovan tied for the NBCA Coach of the Year honors, which was voted on by fellow NBA coaches. But don’t be surprised if media give the nod to Nick Nurse over his fellow finalists after leading the Toronto Raptors to a better winning percentage than last year’s championship run that included Leonard on the roster.

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