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James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook vie for MVP


James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook vie for MVP
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The NBA Most Valuable Player award will come down to Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard.

LeBron James – will not be in the mix. James was left out of the running Friday night when the NBA announced three finalists for each of its six major awards.

Shortly afterward, James went out and delivered an MVP-like performance, collecting 30 points, seven assists, four rebounds and three blocks as the Cavaliers rolled to a 130-86 rout of the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.

This marks the first time since 2008 that James finished outside the top three in MVP voting.

The Cavaliers star set career highs in assists (8.7) and rebounds per game (8.6) this season. Despite becoming only the third NBA player to average at least 25 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists per game while shooting 50 percent from the floor in a single season, James will not be able to win a fifth MVP.

Oklahoma City’s Westbrook and Houston’s Harden have been considered the top two contenders for the MVP throughout the season.

After Kevin Durant left OKC for Golden State via free agency last offseason, Westbrook averaged a triple-double this season. Westbrook and Oscar Robertson are the only players in league history to achieve the feat.

Westbrook had 42 triple-doubles this season, breaking Robertson’s single-season record of 41 set in 1961-62 (when Robertson averaged a triple-double).

Westbrook led the NBA in total points and was second in total assists, averaging 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists. The Thunder went 33-9 when he recorded a triple-double.

Harden, meanwhile, became the first player ever to score 2,000 points and assist on 2,000 points in a single season, creating the most points per game (scored or assisted) in the NBA this season with 56.2.

Playing point guard, he finished first in total assists and second in total points, averaging 29.1 points, 11.2 assists, 8.1 rebounds and 1.5 steals this season.

Leonard, who has won the last two Defensive Player of the Year awards, led the Spurs to 60 wins for the second straight season for the first time in franchise history. He averaged 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals as the Spurs’ leader on offense and defense.

The Sixth Man of the Year award will come down to Golden State forward Andre Iguodala and Houston guards Eric Gordon and Lou Williams.

Iguodala posted his highest player efficiency rating (14.4) in four seasons in Golden State, while averaging 7.6 points. Gordon made the fourth-most 3-pointers (246) this season, while Williams averaged an NBA-best 17.6 points per game off the bench.

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