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Westbrook, Harden, Leonard finalists for NBA's MVP

Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard are the finalists for the NBA's MVP award.

For 1st time, winners will be announced at end-of-season gala

Russell Westbrook broke Oscar Robertson's single-season triple-double record this past season. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

LeBron James will have to settle for trying to win another NBA title. He isn't even a finalist for the MVP award.

Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard are the three players in the running for the league's top individual honour.

The NBA announced the three finalists for that and its five other individual awards Friday. They are voted on by a panel of writers and broadcasters. The winners will be announced June 26 in New York during the NBA's first awards show.

In previous years, the individual awards were announced separately throughout the post-season.

New MVP

The NBA will have a new winner after Golden State's Stephen Curry won the last two seasons. Westbrook had a record 42 triple-doubles this season and averaged a triple-double for the season. Harden also put up record-setting offensive numbers, while Leonard carried the Spurs on both ends of the floor as they won 61 games and a division title in their first season after Tim Duncan retired.

Rookie of the year

The Philadelphia 76ers will have two cracks at the award for top first-year player. Joel Embiid made the final three even though he was limited to 31 games by injuries, while Dario Saric put up impressive numbers after his teammate was lost. Malcolm Brogdon, a second-round pick, helped the Milwaukee Bucks made the playoffs.

Coach of the year

Gregg Popovich, often regarded as the NBA's best coach, has a chance to win for the third time in six years after the Spurs compiled the NBA's second-best record. Mike D'Antoni can add this award to the one he won in Phoenix in 2005 after returning to the NBA and guiding Houston to 55 wins and the league record for 3-pointers in a season. Erik Spoelstra guided the Miami Heat to a 41-41 finish and nearly into the playoffs after they started 11-30.

Sixth man of the year

Houston has two chances to win the honour for the best player in a reserve role, though most of Lou Williams' success came with the Los Angeles Lakers before the Rockets acquired him in a trade. He won in 2015 in Toronto. Eric Gordon, in his first season as a non-starter, set the record for most 3-pointers for a player off the bench. Andre Iguodala, the 2015 NBA Finals MVP, became even more important for Golden State late in the season after Kevin Durant was injured.

Defensive player of the year

Kawhi Leonard has won the last two years and Draymond Green will be hoping it's his time for everything he does for the Warriors, including a game this season where he had a triple-double that didn't even include points. Rudy Gobert was the dominant man in the middle for a Utah team that allowed the fewest points per game during the regular season.

Most improved player

A European player will win this award. If it's Gobert, the Frenchman will be recognized not only for his defensive dominance but also for his growth as an offensive player. Giannis Antetokounmpo was voted to start the All-Star Game at mid-season and the Greek Freak could add another honour after it. Nikola Jokic was a creative playmaking centre for a Denver team that ranked behind just Golden State and Houston in scoring.

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