Don’t look now, but we’re almost a third of the way through the season and Russell Westbrook is averaging a triple double.
And we’re not talking Jason Kidd triple doubles (no shot at Kidd), we’re talking 30+ point triple doubles on a nightly basis, career nights for 95% of the league.
After recording a record-tying seven consecutive triple doubles, Russ went on a three game hiatus, but returned to the triple double column with a bang on Saturday, dropping 26 points, 20 assists, and 11 rebounds against the Suns, pushing his season stats to 30.4 PPG, 10.5 RPG and 11 APG.
But are these nightly video game statlines sustainable, and can Westbrook genuinely end the season averaging a triple double?
It’s best to look back a few seasons for our answer.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Westbrook string together multiple weeks of pure basketball wizardry. Back in the 2014-15′ season, Kevin Durant, coming off his remarkable MVP season, missed 55 games due to a foot injury, and we got a glimpse of what Westbrook as the main man would look like.
What we saw was mind-boggling statistically, but it also resulted in the Thunder missing the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. Albeit, the West was much stronger back then, but the Westbrook show died out as the season wore on without another star player to take on some of the slack.
It should be expected that something similar will happen this season. Though the Thunder coaching staff has done a decent enough job limiting his minutes (he’s playing under 36 per game), his usage rating leads the league by a country mile, and though by no fault of his, what he puts into his (somewhat) limited ~35 minutes is equivalent to 38 or 39 minutes for any other player.
All of this is a recipe for a burnout around game 55-60. Not a burnout to the extent that you might think, but rather a burnout that leaves him a stat line that looks something like (PPG-APG-RPG) 27-9.7-8.9.
But I hope I’m proven wrong on this. After all, it’s only been done once in NBA history, by of course the Big O. But that was in the 60’s, where the pace of game inflated the amount of possessions a team got and therefore stats. A modern triple double season would be infinitely more impressive than the Big O’s. But given the history and the advanced stats, I just can’t see it happening, at least not this year.