NBA MVP award finalists named as contenders battle it out for league honors

New York, New York - Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, the Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic, and Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are the three finalists for the NBA Most Valuable Player award, the league said Sunday.

From l. to r.: Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Denver's Nikola Jokic, and Dallas' Luka Doncic have been picked as finalists for the NBA's Most Valuable Player award.
From l. to r.: Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Denver's Nikola Jokic, and Dallas' Luka Doncic have been picked as finalists for the NBA's Most Valuable Player award.  © Collage: USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Connect

The league unveiled three finalists for each of its individual awards for the 2023-24 regular season.

Serbia's Jokic is an MVP finalist for the fourth straight season while France's Victor Wembanyama is in the running for both Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Jokic, who led the Nuggets to the title in 2023, won the MVP in 2021 and 2022 and finished runner-up in voting behind Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers last season.

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This season Jokic averaged 26.4 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 9.0 assists for Denver, who finished tied atop the Western Conference with Gilgeous-Alexander's Thunder but are seeded second in the playoffs as the Thunder own the tiebreaker.

Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 30.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.0 steals this season. Doncic led the league in scoring, averaging 33.9 points, to go along with 9.2 rebounds and 9.8 assists for the Mavs.

NBA Rookie of the Year battle heats up

Gilgeous-Alexander's teammate Chet Holmgren and Charlotte Hornets forward Brandon Miller joined San Antonio's sensational Wembanyama in the battle for Rookie of the Year.

Wembanyama set a slew of records in his first NBA season, averaging 21.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 3.6 blocks, and 1.2 steals, while Holmgren averaged 16.5 points and 7.9 rebounds for Oklahoma City after missing the 2022-23 season with a foot injury.

Miller averaged 17.4 points and made 184 three-pointers this season.

Contenders vie for Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player

Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, is again among the finalists for the award alongside French compatriot Wembanyama and Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo.

Gobert led Minnesota to the league's best defensive rating and averaged 12.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks. Adebayo, one of the league's most versatile big men, averaged 10.4 rebounds plus a steal and a block per game, while Wembanyama became a block and steal machine as a rookie, especially after shifting to center full-time midway through the season.

The field for Most Improved Player includes 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey, Chicago Bulls guard Coby White, and Houston Rockets center Alperen Sengun.

Mark Daigneault of Oklahoma City, the Timberwolves' Chris Finch and the Orlando Magic's Jamahl Mosley are the nominees for Coach of the Year.

The winners of the awards, elected by a global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters, will be announced during the playoffs, starting on Tuesday.

Cover photo: Collage: USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Connect

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