Remember July 4 last year? In addition to being Independence Day (duh), it marked Kevin Durant’s that he was leaving the Thunder in free agency and joining the Warriors.
Before that day was over, it also saw Clippers guard Austin Rivers make an eerily prescient call: that in the wake of Durant’s departure, Russell Westbrook might become the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1962 to average a triple-double over the course of a season.
On another note….Russ might go Oscar next year. In this era that would be crazy
— Austin Rivers (@AustinRivers25)
How right Rivers was. Having long since assured himself of a double-digit average in points, Westbrook recently locked up rebounds, as he now has 831 on the season. Achieving a double-digit average in assists appears to be a mere formality at this point, as well, considering that he just needs six over Oklahoma City’s final four games.
As it stands now, following a win Wednesday over the Grizzlies, Westbrook is averaging 31.8 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists through 78 games. He has already of 41 triple-doubles in a single season, and he came extremely close to breaking it in Memphis, notching 45 points and 10 assists but only (term used loosely) nine rebounds.
Of course, many foresaw the OKC guard going bananas without Durant around. Even with Durant in the fold, Westbrook had a penchant for playing hero-ball, so with a lesser supporting cast and with vengeance on his mind, it’s been all Russ, all the time (not that the 45-33 Thunder thinks there’s anything wrong with that).
Westbrook’s usage rate, which is the rate at which a team’s possessions end in a certain player taking a shot (field goal or free throw) or committing a turnover, tells much of that tale. He is at 41.7 percent, a number that not only leads the NBA by a wide margin this season, but is, according to , the highest single-season mark in NBA history.
For comparison, Kobe Bryant’s 2005-06 campaign, his second after Shaquille O’Neal was banished from the Lakers, is second at 38.7. Third is Westbrook again, at 38.4 in 2014-15, a season when injuries limited Durant to just 27 games.
So Rivers and others had reason to suspect that, in the complete absence of Durant, Westbrook would post some crazy numbers. However, give Doc Rivers’s son credit for being among the few to declare Westbrook a legitimate threat to match Robertson’s 55-year-old triple-double exploits.
Speaking of how long ago Robertson was in his heyday, if it’s worth noting Westbrook’s usage rate, it’s only fair to point out that, in Robertson’s era, NBA games featured a much faster pace and therefore many more possessions. That means that Robertson had many more opportunities to collect rebounds and assists (albeit in a time when assists were granted more sparingly), especially given that he played nearly 10 minutes more per game (44.3 in 1961-62) than Westbrook (34.8).
In fact, on per-100-possessions basis, Westbrook is putting up much bigger numbers than Robertson did (44.9-26.7 in points, 15.0-10.8 in rebounds and 14.6-9.9 in assists). Still, others have outdone Robertson on that basis (LeBron James is doing it this season and has done so in several previous campaigns), but no one had matched the “Big O,” triple-double for triple-double, until Westbrook.
Hey, don’t say Austin Rivers didn’t warn ya.