A look back at the historic season of Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook.
The NBA Most Valuable Player won’t be announced until June 26 in a new ceremony held by the league so we won’t know if it will be Russell Westbrook or James Harden (or both?) for a couple of months but one thing we do know is that Westbrook just had one of the most remarkable seasons in NBA history, regardless of whether or not he takes home that hardware.
Obviously, the most impressive thing about Russell Westbrook’s 2016-17 campaign was the fact that he became just the second player in NBA history to average a triple-double over the course of an entire season. The first to accomplish this amazing feat, of course, was Oscar Robertson, who averaged 30.8 points, 11.4 assists and 12.5 rebounds in the 1961-62 season while putting up a total of 41 triple-doubles, a record that Westbrook broke this past Sunday with his 42nd triple-double of the year in a 106-105 win over the Denver Nuggets, a game in which he scored 50 points, dropped 10 dimes, grabbed 16 boards and also hit a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer to officially eliminate the Nuggets from playoff contention and also set up a first-round matchup with Harden and the Houston Rockets in the process. It was quite the day for Russell Westbrook, just one of many that he had throughout this historic season. So let’s take a look at some of the amazing accomplishments Westbrook achieved during this phenomenal campaign.
Westbrook played in 81 games this season, only taking off Tuesday night’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Thunder went 46-35 in games that he played for a solid .568 winning percentage, which is really all that could be expected after what the Thunder lost in the offseason. He scored a total of 2,558 points, good for 31.6 points per night and his second scoring title, finishing a full 2.5 points per game higher than James Harden, who finished in second at 29.1. He dished out a total of 840 assists for an average of 10.4 per game, good for third in the league behind only Harden (11.4) and Washington’s John Wall (10.7). He grabbed 864 total rebounds (727 defensive, 137 offensive) and finished 10th in that category with 10.7 per contest. 31.6 points per game, 10.4 assists per game and 10.7 rebounds per game. Quite impressive. As for his shooting, he shot 824-for-1941 from the floor for a 42.5 mark and went 200-for-583 from the 3-point line for a 34.3 percentage. He shot 84.5 from the free-throw line, making 710 of his 840 attempts, good for 34th in the NBA and just one spot behind James Harden.
As I mentioned, Russell Westbrook put up a total of 42 triple-doubles on the year and while there are some out there that might look at that and say that it didn’t really help the Thunder, the win-loss record contradicts that and then some. In the 42 games in which Westbrook messed around and got a triple-double, Oklahoma City went 33-9, good for a .786 winning percentage. Westbrook came into the season with 37 triple-doubles for his career, which was good enough for a top 10 spot on the career list. But with his output this year, he’s vaulted into the number four spot on the list, passing legends like LeBron James, Larry Bird and Wilt Chamberlain in the process. He now has a total of 79 for his career and trails only Jason Kidd (107), Magic Johnson (138) and of course, Oscar Robertson (181).
Westbrook’s fastest triple-double this season came back on New Year’s Eve in a win over the Los Angeles Clippers. He had his 16th triple-double of the season in about 19 minutes, just two minutes shy of the NBA record set by Jim Tucker in 1955, with 11 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds before halftime. Westbrook didn’t play much of the second half in the 114-88 blowout victory and ended the night with 17 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds.
According to Game Score, a formula used at Basketball Reference to measure a player’s single game productivity, Russell Westbrook’s best triple-double of the season was the aforementioned game this past Sunday against the Denver Nuggets. To recap, Westbrook put up 50 points on 17-for-32 shooting, including 5-for-12 from deep, including that game-winning shot from well beyond the arc and a perfect 11-for-11 from the stripe. He dished out 10 assists and grabbed 16 rebounds (14 defensive, two offensive) in the 106-105 victory.
There were also seven games this season in which Westbrook came up short of a triple-double by only one assist or one rebound. He was short one assist five times and short one rebound on two occasions. He had a total of 62 double-doubles this season, which was good enough to put him in a tie for second with Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns. And who was the leader in that category, you may ask? Well, that would be James Harden with 64. Anyone else looking forward to that first-round matchup as much as I am?
While he obviously has a great all-around game, Westbrook’s scoring ability is still his biggest asset and he could put up a lot of points when he wanted and/or needed to. He scored 40 or more points on 17 occasions and put up 50 or more points four times, including a career-high 58 against Portland on March 7 and 57 just a few weeks later against Orlando, the most points ever recorded in a triple-double. He added 11 assists and 13 rebounds that night. His four 50-point games this season gives him a total of five for his career, which is actually good for a tie for 14th on the all-time list. Jerry West, Steph Curry and George Gervin are in that group and you know who else? Yep, you guessed it. James Harden. This is just too good.
The career-high 58 points were obviously the most scored by Westbrook in a game this season. His high in assists for the season was 22 against the Phoenix Suns, a team he absolutely lit up this year, back on December 17. He also had 26 points and 11 rebounds that night. His high in rebounds was 18 and he accomplished that twice. The first time was in a loss at Indiana on February 6 and he did it again 18 days later in a win against the Lakers. As for season lows (hey, the guy isn’t perfect), his lowest point total came in the final game of the season as he only put up 5 points on 2-10 shooting, his only single-digit performance of the year. He also only played just over 18 minutes on Wednesday night. His low in assists was zero, which happened on December 29 in a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. That was one of the worst nights of the season for Westbrook as he shot just 6-for-19 for 21 points and only grabbed five rebounds. However, that five wasn’t his lowest rebound total of the year. That number was three and that came on the night he scored his 58 points on March 7 against the Blazers. He did dish out nine assists in the loss.
Again, we won’t know if Russell Westbrook wins the MVP until late June but regardless if that happens or not, we just witnessed one of the greatest single seasons in the history of the NBA. And here’s a fun fact. After the 1961-62 season, the one in which Oscar Robertson averaged his triple-double, he only finished third in the MVP voting behind winner Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. The more you know, am I right?
I’ll be covering every single aspect of the Thunder vs. Rockets first-round series so be sure to be on the lookout for that and be sure to check back in with FanSided each and every day as we roll out our coverage of the 2017 NBA Playoffs.