LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo, four-time winner LeBron James and 2018 MVP James Harden headline the list of finalists for the NBA’s six major individual awards, all of which were announced Saturday afternoon.
Antetokounmpo, James and Harden were the three finalists for MVP, with the finalists for each of the six awards — MVP, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, Most Improved Player and Coach of the Year — being determined based off voting results from a panel of sports writers and broadcasters from across the globe.
Antetokounmpo, the heavy favorite to win the MVP award for a second consecutive year, also has a chance to join Hakeem Olaujuwon and Michael Jordan as the only players to win both the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season. The other two finalists for that award were Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert and Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis.
If Gobert wins, he would join Dwight Howard as the only players to have won the award in three consecutive seasons.
Three first-time All-Stars this season — Bam Adebayo, Luka Doncic and Brandon Ingram — were all named finalists for the league’s Most Improved Player award, while the top two picks in last year’s NBA Draft — New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson and Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant — were named as two of the three finalists for Rookie of the Year, along with undrafted guard Kendrick Nunn from the Miami Heat.
LA Clippers guard Lou Williams, who has been named Sixth Man of the Year three times — including each of the past two seasons — is a finalist for the award yet again, and is joined by teammate Montrezl Harrell and Oklahoma City Thunder guard Dennis Schroder. Williams and Jamal Crawford are the only three-time recipients of the award.
Last year’s selection for Coach of the Year, Mike Budenholzer of the Milwaukee Bucks, also was nominated again, as was Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse and Thunder coach Billy Donovan. Budenholzer would tie Pat Riley, Gregg Popovich and Don Nelson as the only coaches to have won the award three different times with another victory.
In recent years, the NBA has shifted away from presenting all of its awards individually during the playoffs, as it always did, in favor of having a single awards show on TNT after the season was over. Because of the unusual circumstances this season has presented, however, the league will be shifting back to the old format and announcing award winners during the league’s restart inside the NBA’s bubble here at the Walt Disney World Resort.