Russell Westbrook didn’t exactly have one of his best games of the season Saturday night against the Indiana Pacers, but he did record another triple-double — his 14th of the season.
Westbrook finished the game with 11 rebounds, 14 assists and 14 points on 4-of-17 shooting, well under his season shooting average of 46 percent. He also had a team-high seven turnovers, but the Thunder were able to pull out the victory 115-111 with Kevin Durant adding an impressive 33 points on 11-of-20 shooting.
According to ESPN’s Royce Young, Westbrook’s 14th triple-double of the year is the most of any player in a single season since 1988-89 when Michael Jordan recorded 15 and Magic Johnson recorded 17. ESPN Stats & Info has also noted that Westbrook’s triple-double total so far is the fourth-highest in 30 NBA seasons.
Westbrook has 12 games left on the regular season schedule to either match or surpass the triple-double totals set by Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Fat Lever — a relatively unknown, all-around player for the Denver Nuggets during the 1980s. Given Westbrook’s season averages thus far, there’s a solid chance that he will.
For the 2015-2016 season, Westbrook is averaging 23.8 points, 10.4 assists, and 7.7 rebounds. None of the triple-double threats of the 1988-89 season — Johnson, Jordan, and Lever — were able to average double figures in two categories for the whole year like Westbrook.
In fact, Westbrook has been so prolific in all facets of the game, that in a meeting on March 14 against the Portland Trail Blazers, he nearly notched a triple-double in the first half alone. With 3:25 left in the second quarter, Westbrook had 10 points, 11 assists, and 9 rebounds. If he had been able to snag the 10th rebound, it would’ve been the first time a player had accomplished the feat since the 2002-03 season. Westbrook quickly recorded the 10th rebound in the 3rd quarter en route to his 12th triple-double of the season.
When Trail Blazer guard Damian Lillard was asked about Westbrook’s triple-double after the game, Lillard responded with his thoughts on Westbrook.
“He’s a handful. He was coming off pick-and-rolls, making plays for guys, and they made shots. I didn’t think he did anything different tonight than what he does all the time.”
“All the time,” as Lillard pointed out, in reference to the versatile play of Westbrook, is becoming so common that ESPN’s Michael Smith and Jemele Hill devoted an entire segment of His & Hers to debate whether or not Westbrook [along with Giannis Antetokounmpo] could average a triple-double for an entire season.
During the segment, Michael Smith said that he “does not like the chances” of Westbrook averaging a triple-double for a season, pointing out that it would be “harder to do it today than it was to do in Big O’s [Oscar Robertson] day.”
“The pace of play back then was so much faster that it [lended] itself to compiling types of counting stats that make up a triple-double,” Smith said. “When you look at the talent and versatility though [of the NBA] — and the pace of the game is picking up — I think players could threaten this. Westbrook might be able to do it.”
Whether Westbrook ever averages a triple-double over an entire season or not, his all-around play this season is critical for the Thunder to be successful. In fact, OKC is 14-0 when Westbrook notches a triple-double, so fans are sure that he would be happy to average one for an entire season if that means it drives the Thunder to the NBA Finals.
Do you think Russell Westbrook or any other NBA player will ever average a triple-double for an entire season?
[Photo by Michael Dwyer/AP Images]