The NBA has announced the finalists for its six annual awards with Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse voted a finalist for coach of the year.
The Milwaukee Bucks‘ Mike Budenholzer and the Oklahoma City Thunder‘s Billy Donovan were the other finalists.
Among the other awards, Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo is a finalist for the Most Valuable Player award one year after winning it for the first time. A player hasn’t won the MVP in back-to-back years since Steph Curry did so in 2015 and ’16. The other finalists for MVP are the Houston Rockets‘ James Harden and the Los Angeles Lakers‘ LeBron James.
Other awards finalists announced Saturday include:
Rookie of the Year: Ja Morant, Kendrick Nunn, Zion Williamson
Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, Rudy Gobert
Sixth Man of the Year: Montrezl Harrell, Dennis Schroder, Lou Williams
Most Improved Player: Bam Adebayo, Luka Doncic, Brandon Ingram
Nurse is a finalist for coach of the year in his second season leading the Raptors. The Raptors, one year after winning a championship and losing Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard in free agency, posted the third-best record in the NBA. Nurse and the Raptors managed to do that despite having the fifth-most games lost to injury, with undrafted rookie Terence Davis the only player to appear in every game. Part of that success came from a by-committee defensive plan from Nurse, whose unconventional strategies and plays led to a 104.9 defensive rating, second-best in the NBA.
Budenholzer, the reigning coach of the year, once again guided the Bucks to the best record in the NBA at 55-14. The team was a plus-10.8 on offence, more than four points better than any other team, and had a league-best 102.1 defensive rating.
Donovan guided a Thunder team that many expected to take a step back this season into a playoff spot, despite trading away Paul George and Russell Westbrook last summer. The Thunder had a 42-26 record at the time of the pause, giving them an improved winning percentage from the previous year. The Thunder were among the top 10 in many offensive and defensive categories this season and posted an NBA-best 10.6 fast-break points against per game.
The awards are voted on by a global panel of NBA writers and broadcasters and cover only games played up until the league paused the season on March 11. The winners will be announced during the playoffs.