NBA PM: Russell Westbrook May Make History


Wilt Chamberlain, the Consolation Prize?

With eight triple-doubles in Russell Westbrook’s first 19 games, perhaps we should be paying more attention to the total amount of triple-doubles he is accumulating instead of his per-game averages. He seems to have a much better shot at making history by chasing the former accolade than the latter.

It’s been over 50 years since Oscar Robertson was able to accomplish the unthinkable by averaging a triple-double for an entire season. During the 1961-62 season, the “Big O” averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game. With a shade less than 25 percent of the season complete, Westbrook is breathing down his neck in more ways than one, though.

Currently, the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard is on pace to record a whopping 34.5 triple-doubles, which would give him the second-highest single-season total in history. Although one might be inclined to think that averaging a triple-double means getting one every night, during Robertson’s historic season,he recorded a triple-double just 41 times. Obviously, 41 triple-doubles is an amazing accomplishment, but many wrongly assume that Robertson was going out and recording a triple-double in every game—hardly the case.

The remarkable 41, however, remains the most all-time for a single season, followed by Wilt Chamberlain’s 31 triple-doubles during the 1967-68 season. Doing the math, then, it stands to reason that Westbrook may be coming for Wilt, and Magic Johnson should probably be watching his back, as well. Aside from Robertson and Chamberlain, Johnson is the other all-time great whose name is most associated with the triple-double. Aside from recording the second-most over the course of his career, Johnson is the only other player aside from Robertson and Chamberlain to record as many as 17 triple-doubles in more than one season. During the 2015-16 season, Westbrook joined elite company, as he accomplished the feat 18 times.

This season, whether he is able to accomplish the unthinkable—averaging a triple-double for an entire season—Westbrook appears destined to have a real shot at breaking Robertson’s single-season record of 41. Currently on pace to record 34.5, however, it would appear that Wilt and Magic will each have to step aside, as Westbrook surpassing Chamberlain’s second-most single-season total of 31, at this point, appears fairly likely.

In terms of career totals, Robertson leads the way with 181 career triple-doubles, followed by Johnson (138), Jason Kidd (107), Chamberlain (78) and Larry Bird (59), respectively. Westbrook is currently tied with LeBron James for sixth in history with 45 triple-doubles.

After those two, Rajon Rondo is the only other active player on the all-time list (Rondo’s 28 career triple-doubles has him tied for 12th in history with Michael Jordan).

What’s most amazing in all of this, however, is probably Jordan. During the 1988-89 season, Jordan recorded 10 triple-doubles in 11 games. Even more amazing? For the entire season, he recorded 15—more than half of his entire career’s total of 28.

Derrick Rose Extension?

When the New York Knicks made their surprising acquisition for Derrick Rose earlier this year, some questioned the wisdom of the move while others believed that the acquisition was a low-risk, high-reward proposition.

On Tuesday, Marc Berman of the New York Post pointed out that the Knicks will have an opportunity to re-sign Rose to an extension and lock up the point guard without giving him the opportunity to test free agency. Although Rose has recently gone on record as saying that he isn’t necessarily chasing the ghosts of his former self, the 28-year-old guard has put forth an above-average season which, through 17 games, has shown that Rose is still able to break down defenses and finish with strength in the paint.

Rose is averaging 16.8 points, 4.9 assists and 4.4 rebounds. Most importantly, however, has been his ability to stay on the floor. He hasn’t missed a game yet and hasn’t (publicly) had any major setbacks related to his health.

However, the conundrum for the Knicks is determining whether making a multi-year commitment to Rose—even after having played 70 games—would be a wise investment. The Knicks are already on the hook to Joakim Noah for three more years after this one at an average of $18 million per year. Would having Rose and Noah under contract for the formative years of Kristaps Porzingis’ career be wise? As always, it would probably depend on the cost. Rose on a $10-million-per-year contract would represent pretty good value, but paying him maximum money? That would come with substantial risk.

The most obvious question that Knicks fans have been asking in response to the report, though, is what are the reasonable alternatives? Here are a few names of some impact point guards who will likely be free agents on July 1, 2017.

  1. Stephen Curry: There’s no reason to believe the reigning MVP would leave the Golden State Warriors, so don’t hold your breath.
  2. Chris Paul: If the L.A. Clippers fall short this season, could Paul do the unthinkable and bolt from Los Angeles?
  3. Kyle Lowry: After investing heavily in DeMar DeRozan, the Toronto Raptors aren’t likely to let Lowry get away.
  4. Jrue Holiday: Not nearly as impactful as the first two, but consider how well the New Orleans Pelicans have been playing since his return.
  5. Jeff Teague: A nice point guard in his own right, but not necessarily a world beater.

Others worth mentioning: George Hill, Rajon Rondo, Michael Carter-Williams

All things considered, there is a considerable drop-off between Curry, Paul and Lowry, who headline the class. Upon closer examination, maybe re-signing Rose to an extension—depending on the cost—wouldn’t be the worst thing the Knicks have done. In the end, trading multiple picks for both Eddy Curry and Andrea Bargnani still seem to top that list.

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About Moke Hamilton

Moke Hamilton

Moke Hamilton is a Deputy Editor and Columnist for Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and international basketball.