Either James Harden, left, or Russell Westbrook could be a first-time MVP winner. (Thomas B. Shea/USA Today Sports)

For much of the NBA season, the MVP race was widely thought to be a two-man contest between Houston’s James Harden and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, or a four-man race if San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and Cleveland’s LeBron James were included.

According to the league on Friday, it’s a three-man race. And let’s just say that James is probably not a happy Cavalier about it.

The NBA named Harden, Leonard and Westbrook as its MVP finalists, with the winner being announced on June 26. That ensures that we will have a first-time honoree, as the active NBA players who have won the honor include James (four times), Golden State’s Steph Curry (the past two years), Kevin Durant (2014, with OKC), Derrick Rose (2011, with Chicago) and Dallas’s Dirk Nowitzki (2007).

Harden led the NBA with 11.2 assists per game, adding 29.1 points (second in the league) on 44 percent shooting, 8.1 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks and a 27.3 player efficiency rating (fifth, per Basketball Reference). However, he suffered an ignominious end to his season, playing mysteriously poorly as his Rockets were trounced in the sixth and deciding game of their second-round playoff series against the Spurs (not that it counts toward MVP voting).

Leonard averaged 25.5 points on 48.5 percent shooting, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.7 blocks and a 27.5 PER (third). The reigning two-time defensive player of the year also maintained his status as the league’s best perimeter defender while leading the Tim Duncan-less Spurs to 61 wins and the league’s second-best record (behind the Warriors).

Westbrook produced the most eye-popping statistics, leading the league with 31.6 points, while adding 10.7 rebounds, 10.4 assists, 1.6 blocks, 0.4 steals and a 30.6 PER (first by a wide margin). He became the first NBA player since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62 to average a triple-double over a full season, although he led the Thunder to easily the fewest wins, 47, among the finalists.

According The Dream Shake, Westbrook will be named MVP. The Rockets-oriented website has been keeping track of award voters who have announced their picks, and it claimed Friday that, with 70 of 100 voters counted, Westbrook has 46 first-place votes, to Harden’s 18 and Leonard’s five.

James, who will finish out of the top three for the first time since 2008, also has one of those votes, which will presumably be changed. In the meantime, the Cavs star took out whatever frustrations he may have had about the situation on the Celtics in Friday’s playoff game, scoring 22 points in the first half, with an unthinkable plus/minus figure of plus-40, as Cleveland took a 41-point lead, 72-31.

Here are the finalists in the other major NBA award categories:

Coach of the Year
Mike D’Antoni, Houston Rockets
Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs
Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat

Rookie of the Year
Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee Bucks
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Dario Saric, Philadelphia 76ers

Most Improved Player
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Defensive Player of the Year
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

Sixth Man
Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets
Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors
Lou Williams, Houston Rockets