21.2 points, 11.1 rebounds and 11.2 assists. Those are the stats of Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook through 47 games played this season. Russell Westbrook is averaging a triple-double for the third time in his career and third time in three seasons.
Recording a triple-double has become commonplace for the Thunder PG. While we have to recognize this as a great accomplishment, we also have to wonder if his statistical dominance has ruined triple-doubles for the rest of the league.
Russell Westbrook: 2016-17 season
When Russell Westbrook became the NBA MVP back in 2017, his team had a record of 47-35. Oklahoma City was the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference. The record and seed of his team in the 2016-17 season wasn’t all that impressive. So why then did Westbrook win MVP that season?
Russell Westbrook won MVP for the 2016-17 season because of his record breaking year. Westbrook became just the second player in NBA history to average a triple-double over the course of a season. On his way to becoming the second player to ever do so, Westbrook broke the record for most triple-doubles in a season. With 42 triple-doubles, Russell Westbrook passed Oscar Robertson, who was the first player to average a triple-double in a season, for most triple-doubles in a single season.
Although Russell Westbrook didn’t lead his team to a great record or top seed in the Western Conference, his incredible accomplishment blew NBA MVP voters and NBA fans everywhere out of the water. For many NBA fans, this was the greatest single season accomplishment they’d ever seen.
This was in a time when getting a triple-double in any game was impressive. We used to see players like LeBron James or James Harden record a triple-double and think they dominated. One triple-double was impressive, let alone having 42 in one season!
Russell Westbrook: 2017-18 season
After winning NBA MVP, breaking the record for most triple-doubles in a single season and becoming just the second player in NBA history to record a triple-double throughout the course of a season, Westbrook’s triple-double dominance didn’t stop.
In the 2017-18 season, Russell Westbrook became the first player in NBA history to record a triple-double in multiple seasons. After averaging 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists the season before, Westbrook averaged 25.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and 10.3 assists.
During this triple-double season, Westbrook actually led his team to a better record (48-34) and seed (No. 4). Westbrook didn’t record 42 triple-doubles this season, but he did have a league leading 25. Nobody else was even close to Westbrook’s triple-double average.
Where did Westbrook finish in MVP voting that season? Fifth. The only player to average a triple-double in multiple seasons finished fifth in MVP voting. He wasn’t even a finalist! This was after he led his team to a better record and seed in the Western Conference.
What happened? Were Russell Westbrook’s triple-doubles starting to become boring? Yes, yes they were. The historic, impressive, amazing or anything else related you want to call it season Russell Westbrook had in 2016-17 was all the rage, but the historic, impressive, amazing or anything else related you want to call it season that followed was becoming normal.
Russell Westbrook: 2018-19 season
Here we are with about a third of the 2018-19 season left. Of the 55 games the Oklahoma City Thunder have played, Russell Westbrook has played in 47. In those 47 games, Westbrook has averaged 21.2 points, 11.1 rebounds and 11.2 assists. So far this season, Westbrook has recorded a league leading 22 triple-doubles. That’s twice as many as the next player.
In addition to his 22 triple-doubles this season, Westbrook just tied the record for most consecutive triple-doubles (9), tying Wilt Chamberlain. Westbrook will have the chance to break that record tonight against the Portland Trail Blazers.
To go along with his league leading and most consecutive triple-doubles, Westbrook has helped the Thunder earn a record of 36-19 and the current No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. If the Thunder continue at this pace, they’ll again have a better record and seed than the previous two seasons in which Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double.
Although Westbrook continues to make NBA history, where is he in the NBA MVP rankings right now? He’s certainly not in the top five for most people. For many, he’s not even in the top 10. He wasn’t on my recent top 10 list.
Has Westbrook made triple-doubles boring?
Russell Westbrook has gone from winning NBA MVP, to being fifth in the MVP race, to now being not ranked in most top 10 lists. Westbrook continues to slide down MVP lists despite continuing to dominate the league in triple-doubles.
Maybe ‘boring’ isn’t the right word to use in the question. Maybe the right word to use is ‘commonplace.’ In today’s NBA, Westbrook has kind of ruined triple-doubles for other NBA players.
Yes, triple-doubles are still impressive, but they just don’t seem to be as exciting as they once were. They don’t seem to stick out in the same way they used to before Russell Westbrook started his triple-double dominance.