Russell Westbrook's triple-double average is more impressive than you think

Westbrook is making history in multiple ways.

There's no two ways about it — what Russell Westbrook is doing right now is unprecedented in sports history.

The Oklahoma City Thunder point guard tallied his fourth consecutive triple-double on Wednesday night to boost his season averages to 31.2 points, 10.5 rebounds and 11.3 assists through the first 20 games of the year. And on Thursday's episode of FS1's "Undisputed," Skip Bayless said that he's never seen anything like Westbrook in all his time covering sports.

SKIP: Despite the fact that this was the Oklahoma City Thunder against the 6-10 Washington Wizards in Oklahoma City, I was extremely impressed. And I'm going to say it again — I have never seen anything like what Russell Westbrook is doing in sports right now. He has turned into the best show in sports, which is why last night, I did not miss a single dribble of this game from start to overtime finish. And Russell Westbrook — this is why it was so impressive. On one of the worst shooting nights of his career, and he can have some stinkers, on one of the worst shooting nights of his career, he again stole the show, because this man has the greenest light in the history of basketball.

Greener than Kobe's green light.

SHANNON: Greener than Steph Curry's.

SKIP: It is. It's the greenest ever. And this man has no conscience. He has no memory of his last brick that he shot. This man has no compunction, he has no regret, he is just going to keep on keeping on. And the line of the night was spoken to FOX Sports Oklahoma as I was watching after the game, and Russell said, "I ain't never gonna stop." And that sums him up.

 

Westbrook, of course, is chasing the legendary Oscar Robertson, who's the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double for a full season. There are all sorts of ways to contextualize that pursuit. For one, the average game today features about 20-25 fewer possessions than when Robertson played, which means Westbrook has fewer opportunities to stuff the stat sheet than Robertson did. On the other hand, players didn't shoot as well from the floor during Robertson's career, suppressing the Big O's assist rate relative to today's passers. More missed shots equals fewer assists, after all.

Yet that's all subjective. The fact that Westbrook is on pace to be the first NBA player listed at 6-foot-3 or shorter to average 10 or more rebounds per game, on the other hand, is strictly objective.

The current shortest players to average double-digit rebounds for a season are Paul Arizin and Cliff Hagan, both of whom were listed at 6-foot-4 — and both of whom played in the 1950s and '60s. Since the NBA-ABA merger, the shortest player to pull down ten boards per game is Charles Barkley, who was generously listed at 6-foot-6. Not a single guard makes the cut, with Shawn Marion, Anthony Mason, Gerald Wallace and Dennis Rodman among the shorter double-digit rebounders of the past 20 seasons.

And yes, this all makes sense. Short guys struggle to get rebounds, because that's not their job. Yet with all of the seasons played by all of the guards in NBA history, it's still fascinating that no one of Westbrook's stature has managed this rebounding feat. The only players to come close? Fat Lever averaged 9.3 boards per game in 1988-89, one of four seasons in which he tallied eight or more rebounds per contest, and Jerry West averaged 7.9 rebounds in 1961-62. But that's it.

You expect a guard of Westbrook's caliber to get buckets and dish dimes. What truly sets Westbrook apart, though, is the rebounding. It's a simple statement made all the more striking when you appreciate the context.

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