Russell Westbrook's 10th Triple-Double Is One for the History Books
Russell Westbrook is in the zone.
Despite an off-shooting night (5-12 field goals, 12 points), the All-Star guard continued his streak of excellence by notching his 10th triple-double of the season, leading his Oklahoma City Thunder to a decisive 93-75 win over the Miami Heat. Westbrook dished out 17 assists (tying a career high set earlier this year) and collected 10 boards to become the first player since Jason Kidd in 2008 to record at least 10 triple-doubles in a single season, per ESPN Stats & Info.
Russell Westbrook: 1st player with 10 triple-doubles in a season since Jason Kidd (2007-08)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 22, 2015
Not only that, he accomplished the feat at a remarkable pace:
Russell Westbrook: 10 triple-doubles in 31-game span. Last w/ 10 in quicker span: Michael Jordan, 10 in 11 games, 1988-89 (via @eliassports)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 23, 2015
He also becomes the fourth-youngest player in NBA history to record 10 triple doubles in a single season, behind only Michael Jordan and Grant Hill (who accomplished at age 23 and 24), according to Basketball Reference.
This performance makes Westbrook only the ninth player since 1986 to record at least two 17-plus assist triple-doubles in his career, and just the sixth to record both in the same season (Magic Johnson actually accomplished the feat in six consecutive seasons, but that's just because he’s Magic Johnson and that’s not fair).
Westbrook’s statistical onslaught over the past two months is certainly impressive on its own merits, but the timeliness of this torrid streak cannot be understated. With reigning-MVP Kevin Durant potentially out for the season and Serge Ibaka sidelined for 4-6 weeks with a knee injury, he represents the Thunder’s only remaining hope for a playoff berth.
Thus far, he seems to be up for the challenge.
With the offense solely centered around him, Westbrook is having easily the best statistical season of his career and is blossoming into one of the NBA”s very best. Westbrook currently leads the league in scoring at 27.5 points per game and ranks among the top five in assists, steals, and free throw attempts.
He also does stuff like this:
After Durant was sidelined on February 19th, Westbrook’s output and efficiency have soared, as the Thunder have continued their ascent from a morbid 3-12 start to the season. In Durant’s absence, Westbrook has led all guards in total points, rebounds, and made field goals while ranking second in total assists and steals.
Here at numberFire, we like to use our own metric called nERD to assess and rank player efficiency -- it gives an estimate of how many games above or below .500 a league-average team would win with that player as one of their starters. As of January 30th, Westbrook's nERD was a paltry 5.5, and didn't even rank among the league's top 30. Now, Westbrook has doubled that rating and currently ranks eighth in the league with a nERD of 11.0 (Anthony Davis leads the league with and 18.9 mark, for reference).
Meanwhile, the Thunder are leading the league in scoring since Durant’s most recent foot setback, and their offense is performing surprisingly well without two of their three top offensive options. Midseason acquisition Enes Kanter is benefiting from Westbrook’s superb point guard play, recording his fifth straight double-double on Sunday and the offense seems to be finally finding a rhythm.
As Dan Devine of Yahoo! Sports notes, much of this can be directly attributed to Westbrook and his improved play as a distributor.
“All told, Oklahoma City made 40 baskets on Sunday. Five of them came during the 14 minutes in which Westbrook was off the floor. (Which, by the way, sounds like something that will become a problem for Scott Brooks' club at some point.) Westbrook made five himself. That means Westbrook directly assisted on 17 of the other 30 Thunder buckets during his time on the floor, an assist rate of 56.7 percent that dwarves even his own league-leading mark (47.8 percent).”
While the seventh-year UCLA product has always been explosive offensively, he’s been criticized (justifiably) for his inefficiency and questionable decision-making. However, this season has been a drastic improvement as Westbrook has consistently kept the ball moving on offense and has cut down on his ill-advised jumpers early in the shot clock.
Sure, he still turns the ball over more than anyone in the league (4.4 per game), but a lot of that can be attributed to his league-leading 37.0 Usage Rate and the dwindling supply of healthy talent around him.
While the debate still rages over who should be crowned this season’s MVP, Westbrook’s numbers certainly place him among Steph Curry and James Harden as the frontrunners. However, unlike Curry and Harden, who have missed a combined three games this season, Westbrook has sat out 16 of the 70 games this season due to injury, and MVPs tend to be among the league’s healthiest players.
Still, If Westbrook continues this basketball sorcery for 12 more games, there will be quite a case to make, especially if Oklahoma City clinches a playoff berth.