As American sports fans we are awed by stats. Especially quirky stats with clever names. Sometimes we are so enamored by them in fact, that we don’t even really understand their relevance or significance.
For instance, It’s automatically assumed that if you score a triple-double, you have had a stellar game. That’s not necessarily true. A couple of days ago Giannis Antetokounmpo had a triple-double that consisted of 10 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. I would say anytime you swipe 10 boards and flip 10 dimes it’s at least a decent game, but… Yet, a guy could score 29 points, grab 19 rebounds, and flip 9 assists every game and never get a single triple-double.
That brings up another point that is widely overlooked. Not only are Triple-Doubles a very misleading statistic, they are also a very discriminating stat that leans heavily in favor of certain players. The guy that brings the ball down the court and dictates the movement of the ball, has a huge advantage over the guy posting up in the paint and waiting his turn.
I don’t think that anyone will argue, that out of the three most common stats in a trip/dub, assists are the toughest one to get. It’s common for a player to drop double digits in points and not that uncommon to get at least ten rebounds, but only three players in the NBA this year average at least ten assists.
A quick scan of the assist leaders will show you that all of the best passers are point guards, except for a couple of point forwards (Antetokounmpo and LeBron James). In other words, triple-doubles are immensely easier for a point guard to achieve, than any other position.
So does that lessen what Westbrook has done this year? No. Not at all. Look at the size difference between those two and James only plays the “three.” There are 30 teams in the NBA and each team has 2 post players who are tall and built to win battles in the paint, yet, Westbrook ranks number 10 in rebounds. All 6-foot-3, 183 pounds of him.
Since we are talking numbers, Russell Westbrook’s averages for the year look like this, 31.9 points (1st), 10.7 rebounds (10th), 10.4 assists (3rd). The ppg is amazing 26th All-Time but the other two are both just barely good enough to count. I mean, if Westbrook averaged 1/2 an assist less a game, he wouldn’t have made it. So what can we compare it to, to see if it is actually legit?
Well, since we have already compared him to the 6-foot-8, 250 pound “King James.” Just to make it interesting let’s take the best average from James’ entire career for each category. In ’07, Bron averaged 30.0 ppg, 8.6 rpg in ’16, and 8.7 apg in ’16. In other words, LeBron’s best statistics over his entire career falls considerably short of Westbrook’s performance this season.
So what’s the conclusion? It’s not necessarily the Triple-Double that’s impressive. It’s the dominanting fashion in which he accomplished it. Russell Westbrook’s hustle and determination should seal this as one of the greatest individual seasons of all-time.