Los Angeles: Houston’s James Harden, Cleveland’s LeBron James and Anthony Davis of New Orleans are the finalists for NBA Most Valuable Player honours.
Harden, the league’s leading scorer in the regular season with an average of 30.4 points per game, appears the favourite to succeed Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook as MVP when the awards are announced on June 25.
The Rockets star, who was runner-up in the voting the past three seasons, was instrumental in the Rockets’ run to a league-leading 65 regular-season wins.
James, who at 33 produced one of the best seasons of his outstanding career, is in the running for a fifth career MVP title.
He averaged 27.5 points — the most for him since the 2009-10 season — along with 8.6 rebounds and 9.1 assists and played in all 82 games of the regular season.
James led the league in minutes played per game as he helped the inconsistent Cavaliers into fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
He could join Bill Russell and Michael Jordan as five-time MVP winners. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the all-time leader with six.
Davis and the Pelicans overcame a season-ending injury to sidekick DeMarcus Cousins to earn the sixth seed in the Western Conference.
Davis averaged a career-best 28.1 points to go with 11.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks and is also a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year along with Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz and Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons of Australia and Jayson Tatum of Boston are the finalists for Rookie of the Year.