The NBA is having a triple-double invigoration

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The NBA is having a triple-double invigoration

Russell Westbrook, leader in total triple-doubles since he was drafted in 2008 by the Seattle Supersonics (photo by Aaron Vasquez)

Russell Westbrook, leader in total triple-doubles since he was drafted in 2008 by the Seattle Supersonics (photo by Aaron Vasquez)

Russell Westbrook, leader in total triple-doubles since he was drafted in 2008 by the Seattle Supersonics (photo by Aaron Vasquez)

Russell Westbrook, leader in total triple-doubles since he was drafted in 2008 by the Seattle Supersonics (photo by Aaron Vasquez)

Paul McLaughlin, Staff Writer, Sports Editor, & Copy Editor

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A triple-double is defined as an achievement wherein a player must accumulate a double-digit total in three of five statistical categories (assists, blocks, points, rebounds, and steals) over the course of a single game. In the 2011-2012 NBA season, ex-Boston Celtic, Rajon Rondo, led the entire league in triple-doubles with six over the course of the season. During that season, there were 18 total triple-doubles across the league. Let’s put that into comparison, in Russell Westbrook’s 2016-2017 MVP season, he had 42 triple-doubles alone, the record for the most ever in a single season. Since Rondo led the league in 2011-2012, there has been a substantial increase of triple-doubles in the NBA, with an average of 57 triple-doubles per season and a league record of 117 in the 2016-2017 season.

These triple-doubles do, in fact, have merit for these player’s teams. The Oklahoma City Thunder are 95-23 when Westbrook records a triple-double, resulting in an 80.5% win rate; the Houston Rockets are 34-7 when James Harden secures a triple-double, at an 82.9% win rate, and the Cleveland Cavaliers were 48-14 when LeBron James achieved a triple-double, good for 77.4%.

An explanation for this influx of triple-doubles would be the league-wide increase in pace. A faster pace means more possessions and more possessions means more chances to score, assist, and rebound. It is no coincidence that NBA seasons that have the highest assist averages correspond with seasons that have the highest league-wide pace. The league as a whole are forcing a lot of fast breaks, so teams have to get back on defense quickly in order to step up and contest, which often leaves uncontested rebounds to be had for a team’s guard tandem. Having these rebounds go to a team’s primary ball handler leads to an efficient fast break where a team’s big man, being a center or power forward, is already running down the court, whether that be to rim-run or to set an off-ball screen to free up the team’s shooters.

The increased pace of the league does not look to be slowing down, as each year since the 2011-2012 season has had an increase in total possessions per game. Players like Russell Westbrook, who has accounted for 112 triple-doubles, or 22.9% of all triple-doubles since the 2011-2012 season, have earmarked a new generation of NBA basketball, additionally, a generation which has an incredibly high pace and all-time high numbers of triple-doubles. Also, the ever-increasing pace has lead to attendance at the stadiums for regular season games increasing for the fourth straight season, reaching 22.1 million. At the end of the 2017-18 regular season, ratings were up among the four major basketball networks, being TNT, ABC, NBA TV, and ESPN. Even the average value of NBA franchises rose, which now stands at $1.65 billion, an increase of an outstanding 22% since the last year. This new era of the NBA is good for the teams who play the game and for the fans who get the opportunity to watch it.