Why I’m not overly impressed with Russell Westbrook’s triple-double season and why you shouldn’t be either

When my mother and I first moved to Tampa, I was eleven years old.  Baseball was my life.

I lived it, breathed it and could tell you every stat from every player on every team in the league.

2nd baseTo relieve me from some of my baseball mania (and to get me out of the house), mom enrolled me in a local little league: Skyway Park right near the Tampa airport.  The fields still exist to this day.

I was a tweener at that age, too small for one age group and too big for another.  Considering I had just moved into the neighborhood and they didn’t know anything about me or how well I played, they stuck me in the smaller group and planted me at shortstop.

In my very first game, I recorded an unassisted triple play.  The batter lined out to me, I ran over to tag the runner off third, then chased down the runner from second.

The coaches were salivating.  I immediately got called up to the other league, where I played well, but failed to log any more unassisted triple plays.

For a brief moment, I was a man among boys, or more appropriately a boy playing among toddlers.

That’s what Russell Westbrook is doing this year.  He is a man among boys… or at least the ones on his own team.

Russell faceGrowing up a sports fan, numbers meant everything.  755 (Hank Aaron’s home run total) and 61 (Roger Maris’ single season home run record) were seen as unattainable.  We all know how that turned out.  Note: They were attained.  Winning baseball’s Triple Crown (which Miguel Cabrera did only recently, the first since Yaz in ’67) and hitting .400 (which still hasn’t been done since Teddy Baseball) similarly were statistics of mythical proportions.

So was Oscar Robertson’s triple-double season, that is until now, because with every game it’s looking more and more like Russell Westbrook is about to join that elite company as the only man aside from Oscar to ever do so.

But how impressive is this season really?  If you listen to ESPN tell the story, it’s as if Westbrook is having one of the greatest seasons ever.  But is he?  Hear me out as I’m about to take the road less traveled.

Let’s look at the facts that matter.  Russell Westbrook is playing on a shitty team.  When the second best player on your squad has a handle bar mustache, you know something is wrong.  Don’t get me wrong.  Oklahoma City is a playoff team in the West which means they’re at least competitive but all you really need to make the NBA post-season is one superstar which (sorry, Mark Cuban) Russell Westbrook most definitely is.

Let’s break down OKC’s statistics.  It goes without saying that Russell Westbrook is leading his team in points, assists and rebounds, the three statistics that comprise the triple-double.  We already knew he was going to be the leading scorer.  Heck, he’s the leading scorer in the league!  His backcourt mate, Victor Oladipo is second on the team, averaging 16 points a game, which isn’t horrible but not exactly what the Thunder expected out of him.  If you’re making the Orlando Magic look like they got the better end of a trade, you’re failing as a general manager.

Steven AdamsSteven Adams, he of the handle bar moustache, is second to Westbrook in rebounds (10.7 to 7.6) which is again, not horrible but I want my starting center to be pulling down double digit rebounds, I don’t care WHO else is on the team.  And least impressive is the assists being handed out by anyone other than Mr. Westbrook.  Oladipo is second on the team, averaging just shy of three dimes a game.

Now to the rest of the team’s defense (something they don’t really play considering they allow 104.5 ppg), it’s probably hard to pile up stats when Westbrook has the ball 90% of the time.  But is he doing that because he needs to for this team to do well or because Billy Donovan is trying to flaunt his point guard as a one-man wrecking crew?  Westbrook has played and started every game for the Thunder.  Let’s say, hypothetically, he missed time with an injury and the Thunder went on a stretch of tough games.  What would their record be?  My guess is sub-optimal.

Furthermore, Oklahoma City is 3-5 against the Rockets, Clippers and Raptors, three of the best teams in the league.  The other three, the Cavaliers, Spurs and Warriors, Westbrook has yet to face.  That, my friends, should be interesting considering OKC travels to Oakland tonight.  I fully expect Westbrook to put up numbers.  But will his team get the W?

Had I stayed in that Skyway little league, I would have put up Ruthian or more appropriately for the sake of this post, Westbrookian numbers.  They also would have been skewed.

Don’t get me wrong, Russell Westbrook finishing this season averaging a triple-double will be an impressive, even historical, accomplishment.  And I do love me some Russell Westbrook.  I hope he gets it and I think he will.  I just think we need to keep things in their proper perspective.  ESPN will tell you that what he’s doing is amazing, and it is.  But it’s not the greatest season ever played by any stretch when you consider the talent gap between him and the next best player on his team.  In other words, if not Westbrook, who?

The Big OOscar Robertson recorded his triple-double in 1961-62 when he played for the Cincinnati Royals.  He came screamingly close to doing so in other years but that is the year he’s credited as having one of the greatest basketball seasons ever (30.8 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 11.4 apg).  That year Robertson’s Royals lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Expect Westbrook’s 2016-17 Thunder to do the same.

13 thoughts on “Why I’m not overly impressed with Russell Westbrook’s triple-double season and why you shouldn’t be either

  1. So let me see , when Russell Westbrook has a game of where he scores over over 50 pts , over eleven assists and eleven rebounds that by your judgment isn’t impressive. I guess the NBA must have faltering standards considering the situation where teams now as such play better defense that during the era of Oscar Robertson. They must be selling some good weed in the Tampa area . ….. http://stats.nba.com/player/#!/201566/gamelogs/?sort=PTS&dir=1

  2. First of all, calling what Adams is rocking a “handlebar” mustache is like calling the Orlando Magic a “playoff contender.” No curl, no handlebar.

    Second of all, you’re absolutely right. Being a team’s only scoring threat just means there a lot of guys on your team who are drawing fire for you. Nobody’s figured out there are at least two guys on the floor at any given moment for the not-so-OK Thunder you really don’t need to defend.

  3. Steven Adams must be wearing a wire. That ‘stash looks like a scene out of a GEICO commercial.

    Westbrook? One of the toughest competitors in the NBA. He doesn’t fraternize with the ‘enemy’.

  4. Al…

    Let’s deconstruct this argument, shall we?

    Who do you think had the better season? Russell Westbrook 2016-17 or Steph Curry 2015-16?

    We will the proceed from there.

  5. Dubs…

    Adams is like an angry, giant Rollie Fingers, minus the full curl… but give it time.

    I’d have to think that the gap between Westbrook and the second best player on his team is wider than any other teams’ one and two players in the league this season. I mean, looking down this roster, they are bad.

    I’m surprised they’re doing as well as they are. And much of that has to do with Westbrook.

    Again, he’s a bad ass. I love his game. But as you suggest, it’s easy to throw up numbers when your teammates aren’t throwing up a thing.

  6. Bets…

    I’ve mentioned this on the site before but of Westbrook, one former teammate said “His give-a-fuck factor is very high.”

    That has to be the highest compliment ever paid an athlete.

  7. I’m surprised he’s doing as well as he is…and surprised they are doing as well as they are. Wait. There might be a correlation here. It is an impressive season because he’s the head of the snake that has to be cut off each night and rarely does the opposition swing the sword successfully. But since he’s all they got…he admittedly has ample opportunity with most all their opportunities. I do agree they’ll stop by for an cup of ‘joe in the playoffs and be on their way to the golf courses and beaches in short time. It is an impressive season…but like most everything that happens these days…people want to make plays and performances the GREATEST OF ALL-TIME!!! You know how that goes…the 50 or 100 best players in a sport surveys all come back with guys who are still playing or just recently retired. Like the sport was just invented ten years ago.

  8. His line last night against Golden State, Burnsy.

    8 of 23 from the floor for 27 points, 15 rebounds, 13 assists, 10 turnovers for the ever-elusive quadruple-double.

    I love when I’m right.

    FYI, your head of the snake analogy is spot on.

  9. Skeletor Westbrook plays like an uncaged animal. That’s all I care about. How many jaw dropping dunks through traffic did he have just last night alone? Dude goes 0-100 real quick.

    He may be the most explosive physical specimen the NBA has ever seen.

    He may not be Big O-worthy, but he sure is fun to watch.

  10. well said PEP, and to add to the chorus of things to think about…and be careful of. Certainly Westbrook has picked up the slack/lack of a partner like KD. In his absence, you would expect such. However, the number two guard, who should actually be the #1 and Russell #2, is doing an admirable job given his touches. If roles were reversed, I believe you wouldn’t see the quad, as turnovers would ideally be minimalized. Part of that is coaching. No Dis-respect to Billy D… I’m a fan, but this is shaping up to be a flashback for me to Laker days when the Black Mumba handled the rock most of the time resulting in his mates standing around looking rather than staying focused and inspired to play because not everyone makes to the league.
    It’s is clearly impressive to date, but it’s a long season! 🙂

  11. Bleed…

    If Russell Westbrook were to spontaneously combust and I don’t mean figuratively which he does every night but literally, would it surprise anyone?

  12. Mony…

    If I’m not mistaken, this is a contract year for Westbrook, meaning the kid is about to get paid whether he stays there or not.

    Personally, I can’t see him staying with far too many better options out there. (Imagine him in Philadelphia)

    Billy D knew the risks he was running when he took that gig.

    Next year with no Westbrook and no Durant, well suddenly that job got a lot less appealing.

  13. Pingback: Russell Westbrook’s MVP season? | Sports Chump

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