The year of the Triple Double

Published by Yoshi on 31st March - 12:00 (CET)
Every year in the NBA there's a unique storyline for the regular season which seems to enchant the whole basketball world and demand attention among fans and media everywhere. A few years ago The Return of the King had everyone's eyes focused on Ohio, last year the Warriors' chase for 70+ wins kept everyone on the lookout for history, and this year The Decision 2.0 was the buzz of the league as Kevin Durant took his talents to the Bay Area.

At least until Russell Westbrook shut that whole ordeal down.

In his first game of the season Russell dropped 32 points, grabbed twelve rebounds and dished out.. meh.. only nine assists, whatever. In game number two, however, Westbrook erupted for 51 points, 13 rebounds and ten assists, and the historical chase was on, making everyone around the league ask "KD, who?" Before 2016 was over, Russ had compiled an impressive 16 triple doubles in 34 games, including an amazing stretch of seven straight from November 25th to December 9th. Oscar Robertson started becoming a household name again as everyone and their mama were making comparisons between the Big O and the man wearing 0 in Oklahoma. Could we actually see someone in '16-'17 finally duplicate Robertson's legendary '61-'62 season and average a triple double for the whole year?

But then something strange happened. It's almost as if the rest of the players noticed how much attention Mr Triple Double was getting and figured they'd give it a shot too. Where in previous years you would have been able to say which handful of players had recorded more than one triple double on the season, now you can barely count them all on two hands! And not just that more guys are picking TDs up, more guys are picking more TDs up to the tune of '16-'17 having the most total triple doubles in NBA history, currently at 102 with about eight games per team remaining.

To put things in perspective, here are the leaders in triple doubles from the '09-'10 season onward:
  • '09-'10 | LeBron James, 4 | Jason Kidd, 2 | Rajon Rondo, 2 | 14 player tie, 1
  • '10-'11 | James, 4 | Rondo/Russell Westbrook/Andre Igoudala, 3 | Blake Griffin/Kidd, 2 | 17 player tie, 1
  • '11-'12 | Rondo, 6 | 11 player tie, 1
  • '12-'13 | Rondo, 5 | James, 4 | Kevin Durant/Paul Pierce, 3 | 5 player tie, 2 | 17 player tie, 1
  • '13-'14 | Lance Stephenson, 5 | Stephen Curry/Joakim Noah, 4 | Durant/Kevin Love, 3 | 6 player tie, 2 | 15 player tie, 1
  • '14-'15 | Westbrook, 11 | James Harden, 4 | 3 player tie, 3 | 6 player tie, 2 | 8 player tie, 1
  • '15-'16 | Westbrook, 18 | Draymond Green, 13 | Rondo, 6 | Giannis Antetokounmpo, 5 | John Wall, 4 | 3 player tie, 3 | 4 player tie, 2 | 12 player tie, 1
  • '16-'17 (through March 31st) | Westbrook, 38 | Harden, 20 | James, 10 | Nikola Jokic, 5 | Green/Elfrid Payton, 4 | Julius Randle, 3 | 3 player tie, 2 | 12 player tie, 1
Where James and Rondo were the talk of the league when they amassed a league-leading four or five triple doubles over a full season at the start of the decade, you now have players like Jokic, Green and Payton getting those numbers and nobody even notices! LeBron has twice as many triple doubles this year as in any other two seasons mentioned above combined, for Naistmith's sake, and people are not talking about it!

Westbrook and Harden have completely shattered our perception of the triple double this year as they seem to be using statistical swords to battle for the MVP award*. Russ has already cemented himself in NBA history as he with his 75 career TDs is fifth all time trailing only Wilt Chamberlain (78), Kidd (107), Magic Johnson (138) and Robertson (181), while Harden with his 29 career TDs is getting very close to the top ten which is rounded off by John Havlicek at 31.

While the increasing TD numbers of the previous couple of years might have been an indication, nobody could have predicted the sheer volume of '16-'17 which for the first time in NBA history sees three players achieve 10+ triple doubles in a year and completely shatters the previous NBA total record of TDs in a season, 78, achieved in '88-'89.

Durant may have burned the Thunder in the off-season, but it was the burning of the record books, with Westbrook playing the hero role of the triple double storyline, that captivated the NBA audience this regular season.

*My vote for MVP (in case the NBA asks for it) would still go to Kawhi Leonard due to way bigger impact on defense than Harden while still kicking ass on offense and his team having a better record than both the Rockets and the Thunder.

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