From Westbrook to Doncic: the triple-double is fashionable in the NBA

It isn’t yet, but Russell Westbrook will be the best at this. At least in the records. Against Indiana, in one of those arreones so his, the point guard took the script of history and smashed it: 35 points, 14 rebounds and 21 assists. A triple-double only at your fingertips. Neither Magic Johnson nor Oscar Robertson, masters in the field, achieved such a level. Only one question was left in the air after such an exhibition: when Russell is going to surpass Oscar in the historical ranking of statistical triplets with double digits. For now, the legendary Cincinnati Royals and Milwaukee Bucks player leads him by 16. A matter of time. If everything goes according to plan, very little. Since that game until today, the Wizards player has already added three more, does not entertain and goes for 19 this year, more than anyone else. Throughout his career, 165: 27 more than Magic (138), 47 than Jason Kidd (107) and 66 than LeBron James (99).

Robertson’s 181s, Mr. Triple-Double, an unrepeatable deity for decades, are now almost earthly. A figure that, for the most optimistic, could expire before reaching the playoffs this year. Very complicated, but not impossible. So far, the Wizards have played 49 games, meaning that if they reached the 72 games agreed before the start of the campaign, they would end up playing another 23. Westbrook, in his private account, has been present in 42 of them, a triple-double almost every two games (45%). At the current pace, he would need another 35 games to reach the historic figure, 12 more than he has at his disposal; Margin to spare in a season of the ‘old normal’. Really difficult, but not out of the question. Even less when it comes to a player capable of averaging triple-double for three seasons (four if the current one is taken into account), adding 11 in a row in 2019 or reaching 42 in 2017, when he achieved his MVP.

Cabal and more cabal for a record that, like so many others, will end up succumbing. It is the law of life. Like, it seems, triple-double these days. Up to 26 players in the league have added, at least, one throughout this course. Two less than last year at the end of the season and three more than in the 1996-97 academic year, the first that allows the official NBA database to be consulted. Apparently a tiny difference to live up to the title of this article; actually more than enough to make it much more hyperbolic. While it is true that, over the years, the number of players who have managed to repeat triples-doubles throughout a season has not varied considerably, the amount of each of them has. If the season 97-96 Grant Hill presided over the classification with 13, now, as he was ahead a few lines higher, Westbrook does it with 19. If after the Hall of Fame was Anthony Mason with four, now there are James Harden and Nikola Jokic with 12, Luka Doncic with nine or Giannis Antetokounmpo with seven. Normally, starring the aforementioned players, the NBA contemplates a triple-double every seven games. On March 13, for the first time in the history of the league, up to five players reached it: Harden, Westbrook, Julius Randle, Domantas Sabonis and Antetokounmpo. As one would say colloquially, it has become our daily bread.

An increase of 700% in nine years

In a study carried out by Tim Reynolds, and available on the NBA’s own website, figures are put into the real increase in recent years. Even bigger than it seems. By his calculations, the regularity with which a triple-double is seen in competition has increased by 47% since last season. An outrage, considering the short span of time, which becomes monstrous when you look back: since the 2011-12 season, the pace of triple-doubles in games has increased by almost 700%. At that time, not so far away, 24 would be achieved at the end of the course, with Rajon Rondo in the lead (6 in total). After him, no one else would repeat on a list with many familiar faces: Serge Ibaka, Pau Gasol, JJ Barea or Kyle Lowry, all with one.

Westbrook, without a doubt, is the symbol of the revolution. His 2015-16 season, in which he dynamited the trend of previous years, would set the precedent with which a new era would start. With 18, one less than he has been so far and five of those who, among all the players in the league, achieved four years earlier, he confirmed a jump that had gone from 2 in 2015 to 11 in 2015. In 2016-17, his first season averaging double digits in points, assists and rebounds, there would be no going back: 42 for him, 22 for Harden and 13 for LeBron James. Since then, five years in a row adding, in total, more than 100. The hundredth of this course, the work of Bam Adebayo with his 18 + 10 + 10 to Memphis. The reasons? Hypotheses that move between statistics and beliefs, extremely linked to the eternal debate that confronts European and American basketball; but they undoubtedly have numbers to hold on to.

In the same past nine years, the pace of the NBA game has increased considerably. There are more possessions and, therefore, more actions that end up adding up in some statistical section; normally, that of the stars, with much more weight, and responsibilities, in their teams than they could have in other leagues (as a general rule). Specifically, since the 2011-12 season, the league pace has increased by 7.8 points. This means that, on average, teams have up to eight more possessions for every 48 minutes. In all this, the widespread improvement in offensive efficiency should not be overlooked, with an overall rating that has gone from 104.6 credits to 111.9. In total, almost four more assists are distributed, two extra rebounds are captured and 15 points are scored over. Thinking of outside players who also end up with double digits on rebounds, Even the era of triples could come into play– Longer shots and therefore rebounds in proportion. Many more things to distribute and, as anticipated, with recipients who like to repeat.

To all this, in addition, some profiles are added that, by chance or causality – time will tell – have coincided at the same time. Luka Doncic, who in his second year already managed to be the player with the most triple-doubles of the season (17), could be one of his main images: players who, due to physical conditions, can be decisive in all areas of the court and that, at the same time, brim with talent. Prototypes that wonderfully combine physical power with technical capabilities. Depending on the case, he weighs one thing or the other more, but there are the Jokic, Antetokounmpo or Sabonis; It also shows a European dominance that, ironically and for more breeding ground, extends to the United States. James Harden, Ben Simmons, LeBron James … As different as they are capable of reaching triple number crowns. One that more and more players are playing, which does not even guarantee results, but which continues to impress when, in the mornings, the statistical lines of the matches are reviewed.