On the brink of history, we look closer at the meaning of the accomplishment
Russell Westbrook is set to surpass Oscar Robinson for the most triple-doubles recorded in one season, and it is inevitable, Westbrook will get another in at least one of the Thunder’s four remaining games. That record comes with the amazing feat of averaging a triple-double for the entire season, something only Oscar Robinson can say he accomplished. We actually are overlooking such an accomplishment. Oscar averaged his triple-double 55 years ago, before Michael, Magic, Kareem, Shaq, Kobe, Bird, LeBron, and others. It is an interesting factoid that NONE of the superstars in the league have averaged a triple-double since Oscar. It has to say something about Russell Westbrook willing his team to victories.
All of the coverage of last nights’ contest between the Thunder and Grizzlies is currently centered on Westbrook missing his record-breaking triple-double by one rebound — which is saddening. Russell needed to perform to keep the Thunder firmly in the 6th position in the Western Conference. Russ did not disappoint. The athletic freak went for 45 points, 10 assists and 9 rebounds with a career-high 8 made 3-pointers. Despite Westbrook putting on his Superman cape again, the Thunder could only manage a 103–100 win.
The Thunder are 32–9 when Russ gets a triple-double this season — and last night’s stat line to me would count as a part of that record. Don’t hang your head on the fact he got 9 rebounds last night. It should not be a disappointment that he missed the triple-double. The win against a quality playoff team in Memphis, is worthy enough. Here, is why folks need to chill about Westbrook. Tomorrow, the Thunder are playing the Phoenix Suns, the team with the second-worst record in the NBA. Westbrook will attain his 42nd triple-double even if his teammates let him grab rebounds over them. With 6 total assists, he will also secure averaging a season-long triple-double. We can all celebrate the individual successes of Russell Westbrook then after that win.
Despite all of the fanfare and criticism surrounding Russell Westbrook’s triple-double feat, the MVP award for the season is still up in the air. Westbrook and his former teammate turned Houston Rocket, James Harden, will finish one-two in the final vote, no doubt about it. Does averaging a triple-double mean anything to this race? It damn well should. Even if Thunder players are at times giving up rebounds for Westbrook, the man still needs to be scoring at his high clip and he needs those assists to keep OKC in games. Russ has had seven 40-point and two 50-point triple-doubles, and the Thunder — as noted earlier — have a 32–9 record when he gets the triple-double. He has not dipped below his average triple-double since November 29th — bonkers. Westbrook is also in place to win his second scoring title and he has a career-high in rebounds and assists.
Harden fans believe he is a more efficient scorer and play-maker — true. But, the addition of effective shooters, primarily Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, spread the floor so much so that Harden can operate easily. The enormous success of Harden this year, in my opinion, would not be happening if Mike D’Antoni was not the coach. D’Antoni has made Harden Steve Nash 2.0. Watching James Harden does remind me and many of the vintage Nash who won two MVPs in 2005 and 2006.
Westbrook or Harden? Who will be king by the time the regular season wraps up?
With points at almost a virtual tie (2.6 difference), similar assist numbers (.8 difference), and comparable field goal percentages (.014 difference), there are only a couple of differentiating factors that could tilt the vote.
For Harden, his team has 53 wins and the 3rd seed in the Western Conference. The team has had more success with a supporting cast around Harden who all fit the coach’s system.
For Westbrook, he has the triple-double record, a season average of a triple-double, the 6th seed (45 wins) in the West. Westbrook has to be at his best night in and night out in order to have his team in contention with the lack of a true supporting cast.
With everything lined up between the two top contenders, Russell Westbrook, with history on his side, will win the MVP and will be the king of the regular season.
This post was originally posted on Medium.com/Section240 by John Amoroso on April 6, 2017