Russell Westbrook’s historic start to the 2016-2017 NBA season is nothing short of legendary. Although the season is young, Russ is on track to be the second NBA player ever to average a triple-double putting him in the same ranks as The Big O, Oscar Robertson. Even compared to the Big O, Westbrook’s triple-double average is unique. On average, today’s game features about 20-25 fewer possessions compared to when Robertson was playing. This means fewer opportunities to stuff the stat sheet. Furthermore, no one of Russell Westbrook’s stature has ever averaged over 10 rebounds per game. At 6’3” and roughly 200 pounds, he is the smallest player ever to average over 10 rebounds per game. To put Russell Westbrook’s incredible rebounding numbers in perspective, he is top 10 in rebounds per game this season and is at least 7 inches shorter than anyone else on that list.
Westbrook’s current averages are not so much a testament to his skill, but more so a testament to his competitive spirit and drive to win. He is literally putting the Thunder on his back. Westbrook’s ability to string triple-doubles together is no surprise. He has led the league in triple-doubles before, but this season is different. There is no KD or Serge, and James Harden was traded to Houston years ago. The Thunder is undoubtedly Russ’ team, and he knows it, which has made it possible for him to further elevated his game. Even his teammates have acknowledged next level playing. “He had an edge last year, but this year he’s just like an animal,” said Kanter. Thunder veteran and longtime temmate, Nick Collison, has also been impressed with Russell’s current output and development as a player. “You want to always appreciate it and not take it for granted,” Collison said. “It is pretty special. And it would be different if he was out hunting these statistics. Guys can do that. There’s a lot of guys that do that. But he’s really not. He’s really just playing the game. And that’s what’s best about it.” Even with all the praise from his teammates, Westbrook does not allow his current feat to detract from the ultimate goal: winning.
“I don’t care, honestly man,” Westbrook said after defeating the Knicks. “I just like to win and compete at a high level. I play the same way every night. I’ve been playing the same way since I’ve been in the league.” This is what truly makes Russ great. He is really focused on winning and making the team better, and if he gets a triple-double in the process then so be it. This is a sign of maturity and true leadership for the sole face of the Thunder organization. The good news is that Westbrook’s triple-double performances seem to be a winning a formula for the Thunder. Last season Westbrook recorded 18 triple-doubles, and the Thunder went undefeated during those games. This season he has recorded nine triple doubles, and the Thunder has seven of those contests without the likes of Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. In the two games that the Thunder lost, they were decided by a combined 6 points. The Thunder are also currently on a five game winning streak, in which Westbrook has had a triple-double every game. Whether or not Westbrook is able to maintain his triple-double average remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, he is a man on a mission. Whether it’s driving on an opponent and posterizing them, or rising up and snagging the rebound, or even passing up on a shot to dish an assist to his teammate, Westbrook is willing to whatever it takes to win.