'Greek freak' fancied to win MVP plum again

Giannis Antetokounmpo

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo was named alongside Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James and 2018 MVP James Harden as the finalist for this year's award on Saturday.

Called the 'Greek Freak', Antetokounmpo, who this week helped the Milwaukee Bucks clinch top seeding in the Eastern Conference, is the heavy favourite to win a second straight MVP award ahead of four-time winner James.

The 25-year-old Greek star was also named in the NBA defensive player of the year category alongside the Lakers' Anthony Davis and Utah's Rudy Gobert.

The Bucks' coach Mike Budenholzer was selected as one of the three nominees for coach of the year, alongside Oklahoma City's Billy Donovan and Toronto's Nick Nurse.

Budenholzer and Donovan recently shared the National Basketball Coaches Association coach of the year award.

The New Orleans Pelicans' Zion Williamson is in the running for rookie of the year honours with Miami Heat's Kendrick Nunn and Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies.

In other categories, the Dallas Mavericks Luka Doncic headlines the most improved player category alongside the Pelicans' Brandon Ingram. Miami's Bam Adebayo is also a nominee.

Voting for all awards was based on regular season games played up until March 11, when the coronavirus pandemic shut down the league for four months, and so does not take into account performances since the league resumed inside its bubble in Orlando.