Russell Westbrook’s (Non-)Pursuit Of A Triple-Double Average

Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder has carried a triple-double average through the All-Star break (with apparent reluctance).

In an NBA season of compelling narratives, Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook‘s (non-)pursuit of a triple-double average stands high above–like Everest rising above the lesser portions of the formidable Mahalangur Range.

That Westbrook has carried a triple-double average this far into the season is difficult to fathom for so many reasons. Here are a dozen of them:

  • Through 57 games played, Westbrook is averaging 10.5 rebounds per game at a height of 6’3″.
  • This season, Westbrook is outrebounding all other players in the league who are less than 6’10”. Even Oscar Robertson—the first and last triple-double averager in NBA history who is also known as an all-time over-achiever on the boards—had a listed playing height of 6’5″.
  • As a 1, Westbrook is outrebounding all players listed at the 1, 2, or 3 position (and most players at the 4 and 5) this season.
  • Westbrook is doing so while averaging less than 35 minutes per game.
  • Westbrook is first in the league in average points per game (by more than a point per game), third in assists per game, and 12th in rebounds per game.
  • Westbrook averages 31.1 points per game and 23.4 assist points created per game.
  • Westbrook’s 1.8 offensive rebounds per game allow for the Thunder to score approximately 1.9 additional points per game (through second chance shots).
  • Westbrook’s 8.7 defensive rebounds per game deny opposing teams several second chance opportunities. In turn, these rebounds contribute mightily to the overall defensive rating of the Thunder (currently 107.0, eighth-best in the NBA).
  • Westbrook is doing these things in the service of winning (without Durant)! The Thunder are 30-22 and currently playoff-bound (at seventh in the Western Conference).
  •  It is difficult to fully understand Westbrook’s rebounding prowess.  His own explanation leaves something to be desired. This is probably by intention. Westbrook did offer that he looks for sound clues (the ball not bouncing anymore).  Thunder coach Billy Donovan suggests that many of Westbrook’s defensive rebounds are set up by his defender “running back to balance the floor on transition defense” (due to Westbrook’s ability and inclination to push the ball in transition).  In this sense, Westbrook’s offensive skills set up his defensive rebounding a bit.  As in the case of Dennis Rodman, however, some aspects of Westbrook’s rebounding prowess remain mystical.
  • According to Westbrook, he doesn’t even care about averaging a triple-double.

The Path Ahead

Through 57 (of a possible 57) games this season, Westbrook has averaged:

Pts       Ast        Reb

31.1    10.25    10.12

Assuming that he plays in all 82 regular season games, Westbrook must average at least the following values (in the remaining 25 games) to achieve a triple-double average.

Min Pts     Min Ast     Min Reb

0.0              9.72           8.88

Obviously, Westbrook has already locked up a double-digit scoring average for the regular season.  If he failed to score for the rest of the season, his end-of-season average would fall only as low as 21.6 points per game!

Presumably, Westbrook’s toughest challenge will be to stay afloat in the assist category, though the rebounding category also presents a formidable obstacle.  Westbrook is an interesting character.  He claims to be unmotivated by the prospect of achieving a triple-double average.

If this is the case, let us hope that an external factor, such as the Thunder being locked in a late-season playoff race, keeps Westbrook’s tremendous all-around game at full tilt.

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