When Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double in the 2016-17 season, it was the talk of the NBA. The superstar point guard netted a league-leading 31.6 points, racked up 10.7 rebounds, and dished out 10.4 assists per game for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Westbrook’s season earned him the NBA MVP Award, decisively winning over ex-teammate James Harden. He also became the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62 to average a triple-double for the season.
Since winning the award, Westbrook has gone on to have three more seasons with a triple-double average, most recently in 2020-21 with the Washington Wizards. However, he has finished no higher than fifth in MVP voting since winning the award, even placing 11th last season. It seems all MVP support for Russ has waned, although the former triple-double king has come to his defense.
Russell Westbrook’s triple-double stats not as impressive anymore
Four years ago, Westbrook was the undisputed top point guard in the NBA. Now, the 32-year-old is ready to suit up for his fourth team after being traded from the Wizards to the Los Angeles Lakers in July.
It’s not as if Westbrook isn’t productive anymore. Last year in D.C., the nine-time All-Star set career highs with 11.5 rebounds and 11.7 assists per game, the latter of which led the NBA. He also scored 22.2 points per game, forming a dynamic one-two punch with Bradley Beal.
But while Westbrook and Beal each set career highs, the Wizards couldn’t muster up many victories. Washington finished the year 34-38 before losing to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs. Russ averaged 19.0/10.4/11.8, another triple-double, in those five playoff games.
The triple-double average looks nice on paper, but for Westbrook, it hasn’t translated to team success. In the three seasons he averaged a triple-double in Oklahoma City, the Thunder won 47, 48, and 49 games. Worse yet, each of those years ended in first-round playoff exits.
Oscar Robertson believes Westbrook should have won MVP anyway
Before Westbrook, there was Robertson.
Big O was the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double, averaging 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists in 1961-62. He had several other close calls, including in 1963-64 when he finished 0.1 rebounds per game short.
Recently, the 12-time All-Star made an appearance on Knuckleheads with Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles. During the podcast, Robertson was asked what it was like to win his lone MVP — ironically earned in a year he didn’t finish with a triple-double average. His answer, however, led to a tangent regarding Westbrook.
“I look at Westbrook, and he got triple-doubles this year and no one even noticed it. They didn’t think it was such a big deal,” Robertson said. “I think that’s totally unfair. I think he should have won [MVP] again. If he [averaged] a triple-double again, and he didn’t win [MVP], so why keep stats then?”
Westbrook and Robertson have been connected to each other for several years. Robertson was in Oklahoma City to celebrate Westbrook breaking his record of 41 triple-doubles in a season. Russ also passed Robertson last season for the most triple-doubles all-time, earning his 182nd on May 10 against the Atlanta Hawks.
Westbrook’s triple-double days might be over
Westbrook is used to sharing the spotlight with other stars, namely Kevin Durant, as well as Harden and Beal. So it shouldn’t be difficult to put ego aside and play alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis in Los Angeles.
Based on the roster, it’s obvious Westbrook is the third option for the Lakers. LeBron is still the king of LA, and the offense will run through him as such. Davis battled injuries last season, but when healthy, he will have his fair share of 20-point, 10-rebound games. While Westbrook will also put up solid numbers, his usage will likely decrease enough for him to fall short of a triple-double on most nights.
In all likelihood, Westbrook should be able to rack up triple-doubles on nights LeBron and/or Davis are out. But just like we saw in Russ’ previous three stops, those performances won’t exactly lead to many victories.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.