Averaging a triple-double is no small feat. Oscar Robertson is known for being the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double for an entire season. Russell Westbrook is trying to make history by becoming the second player ever to do it this season. Both are great players and deserve recognition, but Westbrook’s season is more impressive than Robertson’s. Here are the reasons why:
Minutes Per Game
The minutes played per game shows a huge gap between the two players. Robertson averaged a staggering 44.3 minutes per game during his triple-double season in 1961-1962. Westbrook is averaging about 10 less minutes per game at 34.6.
Scoring isn’t an issue for either player, as both could get to 10 points with ease in their allotted time (Robertson averaged 30.8 points, Westbrook averages 30.6 points). These extra minutes allowed Robertson to rack up his assist and rebound numbers that Westbrook doesn’t have the opportunity to (Robertson averaged 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists, Westbrook is averaging 10.6 rebounds and 10.4 assists). Give credit to Robertson for being able to play that much, but overall he produces less stats per minute than Westbrook (including turnovers sometimes).
NBA stat gurus look at what players can do per 36 minutes on the floor. Westbrook’s stats would go up and still be a triple-double with the extra time to get to 36 minutes. Robertson would have come up just short of a triple-double had he played 36 minutes per game. The Big O would have grabbed just enough boards at 10.1 rebounds per 36 minutes, but would have fallen short in his assist numbers with 9.2.
Now, from what the average fan knows about Russ, he would play all 48 minutes if allowed to, but that isn’t how the NBA works anymore. If they played the same amount of time on the floor, so far, Westbrook has Robertson beat.
Shots Attempted Per Game
This stat is surprising. Shortly after the shot clock era started (1954), in the 1961-1962 season, more shots were attempted per game than are now. In that season there was a league average of 107.7 field goal attempts per game, per team. This season, teams are averaging 85.4 field goal attempts per game.
As mentioned, this doesn’t really matter in terms of their scoring, but again this gives Robertson more access to assists and rebounds. With over 20 more attempts per game, Robertson has more chances to have teammates make shots off of his passes and has a better chance to rebound more.
In Robertson’s era, he made a rebound on 5.8% of shots attempted per game (average shots per team attempted x2, rebound average per game divided by the first number). Westbrook has done better, rebounding on 6.2% of shots attempted per game, while playing less minutes (giving him less opportunity to rebound the complete number of shots attempted in a game).
For assists, Robertson’s Cincinnati Royals averaged 105.2 shot attempts per game, while he averaged 11.4 assists per game. He assisted on 10.8% of the Royals shot attempts. Westbrook on the other hand has 10.4 assists per game, with the Thunder averaging 86.3 shot attempts per game. His number comes out to 12.1% of assists out of the Thunder’s shot attempts. Considering the field goal percentages of the teams are very similar at around 45%, Westbrook again is outperforming Robertson.
The more shots per game affect how many possessions a team has. Once again Robertson would fall short of a triple-double if his team had 100 possessions per game with 9.9 assists averaged per game, while Westbrook’s stats would improve.
Average Height and Weight
It is really tough for guards to average more than 10 rebounds per game. Players’ heights and weights haven’t changed as drastically as a lot of people would think, but they have changed. The average height has gone up about two inches from the time Robertson had his magnificent season to now. As for average weight, it has gone up around 16 pounds in that same period.
Robertson was listed at 6’5″ and 205 pounds during his playing days. Taking the average height in inches from the graph above (1961), the average height of an NBA player was 6’4″. He actually had an edge on most players in the league rebounding-wise. His 205 pounds was also above the league average, giving him an advantage.
Westbrook stands at 6’3″ and 200 pounds. With the average height of the league being around 6’6″ tall, he has to fight for his rebounds. He is also well below the average weight of NBA players in today’s game, meaning he has to rely on his freakish athletic ability to jump and fight for rebounds.
With Westbrook battling among the trees for rebounds and Robertson being taller than the average height of his era, Westbrook’s rebounding numbers, though smaller in number, are more impressive.
Westbrook has a long way to go, 38 games to be exact, but as his stats stand now, his season is more impressive than Robertson’s. If he can finish out the year healthy, he will go down in history as having the best all-around individual season of all time.