(Updated 4/16/2017) With less than a week left in the regular season, anxiety was beginning to mount as to whether or not Russell Westbrook could break Oscar Robinson’s 56-year-old record for most triple-doubles in a season, but the Oklahoma City guard pushed through in a huge way.
FILE – In this Saturday, March 11, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, center, goes up for a dunk in front of Utah Jazz guards Alec Burks (10) and Raul Neto (25) during an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City. Westbrook had more triple-doubles than any player in history this season, and he’ll need a few more if Oklahoma City expects to make a deep playoff run. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
Westbrook obliterated Robinson’s record with a 50-point, 16-rebound, 10-assist night against the Denver Nuggets on April 9. Whether he wins MVP or not, Westbrook has had one of the most memorable seasons in NBA history, and his new NBA record of 42 triple-doubles in one season will be hard to top. There were plenty of doubts whether Robinson’s record could ever be topped. Now that Westbrook has surpassed it, the question is: will this new record ever be beaten? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the possibilities.
Green: What Westbrook did this season was remarkable. Westbrook has the perfect blend of ability and opportunity, and the 6-foot-3-inch lead guard took full advantage. Westbrook claims he never focused on racking up triple-doubles as much as pushing his team to victory, so what happens when he does focus on it? Westbrook’s mark of 42 triple-doubles this season will be broken, and I think it’ll be broken by him next season. Again: it’s about ability and opportunity and nobody has a better blend than Westbrook right now. When Kevin Durant left Oklahoma last summer, Westbrook received the ultimate green light. Unless the Thunder reel in some blue-chip free agent this summer, which is highly unlikely, then he’ll have the light once again next season. The only player with enough of a chip on his shoulder and enough of a lack of regard for other people’s opinions is Westbrook, and that’s exactly what it takes to average a triple-double for a season while breaking a 50-plus-year-old record.
Riley: Westbrook made getting triple-doubles look easy, but trust it was anything but that. Toward the end of the season, opponents started game-planning just to stop Westbrook from filling up the stat sheet. He’ll definitely be a marked man next season and I doubt he–or any other player, for that matter–will be able to come close to reaching 42 triple-doubles in a year. Let’s remember Oklahoma City’s roster wasn’t exactly bursting with talent this year, but the team will grow together, which could limit Westbrook’s usage and his opportunities as well. It’s not smart coaching to let your point guard expend that much energy on a nightly basis and OKC won’t go into next season prepared to ride Westbrook again for another 82 games.
Green: NBA coaches and teams aren’t going to spend countless hours just to stop a triple-double from happening, especially in the regular season. Sure, teams did eventually take pride in him not reaching his numbers against them, but those teams were already out of the playoffs and trying to find any form of motivation to get them going. How many games this season did Westbrook fall just shy of a triple-double? He probably could have finished with more than just 42, so it shouldn’t be hard to envision him exploding again next season and toppling his own record. Not just anybody can average a triple-double for the season and post 42 triple-doubles along the way, but Westbrook is in his prime, and his opportunity and ability makes for a perfect blend.
Riley: The motivation from Durant leaving last offseason might have been some extra fuel for Westbrook’s tank but the physical strain that it takes to do everything for your team is not the ideal situation for any player or coach to be in. Oklahoma City will spend the next offseason figuring out ways to get Westbrook some more help, whether through a big acquisition or a small one.