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NBA Awards: Nikola Jokic, Stephen Curry, Joel Embiid finalists for MVP

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, shown Sept. 1, 2020, averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists this season. He is the heavy favorite to win this year's MVP award. File Photo by Erik S. Lesser/EPA-EFE
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, shown Sept. 1, 2020, averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists this season. He is the heavy favorite to win this year's MVP award. File Photo by Erik S. Lesser/EPA-EFE

May 20 (UPI) -- Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry and Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid are the finalists for this year's NBA Most Valuable Player award, it was announced.

The top three vote-getters for each of the league's major end-of-season awards -- MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, Most Improved Player and Coach of the Year -- were revealed on TNT's Inside the NBA before Thursday night's Play-In game between the Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers.

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If Jokic or Embiid win the MVP award, they would be the first center to earn the honor since Shaquille O'Neal in 2000. Curry, meanwhile, could become one of just nine players in league history to win at least three MVP awards, tying him with Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Moses Malone.

The 26-year-old Jokic averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists while shooting 56.6% from the field this season. He also shot 38.8% from 3-point range and 86.8% from the free throw line.

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Embiid, 27, had one of the best seasons of his career, averaging 28.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.4 blocks in the 2020-21 campaign. He helped guide the 76ers to the best record in the Eastern Conference.

The 33-year-old Curry, who became the oldest player to lead the NBA in scoring since Michael Jordan, averaged 32 points, 5.8 assists and 5.5 rebounds this season. He led Golden State to a berth in the Play-In Tournament, where the Warriors will take on the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night after losing to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, a two-time winner of the Defensive Player of the Year award, is a finalist for the honor once again. He is joined by Sixers guard Ben Simmons and Warriors forward Draymond Green, the 2017 winner of the award.

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Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Charlotte Hornets' LaMelo Ball and Tyrese Haliburton of the Sacramento Kings topped the voting for Rookie of the Year.

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Jazz players Joe Ingles and Jordan Clarkson and New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose were named finalists for Sixth Man of the Year. Rose's teammate, Julius Randle, was one of three finalists for Most Improved Player, joining Jerami Grant of the Detroit Pistons and the Nuggets' Michael Porter Jr.

The finalists for Coach of the Year were Tom Thibodeau of the Knicks, Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder.

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The NBA will announce the award winners throughout the playoffs, as opposed to an end-of-season awards show. The league did the same thing during its bubble last year in Orlando, Fla.

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