Russell Westbrook won the 2016-17 NBA MVP award in large part because he averaged a triple-double. After watching Kevin Durant bolt for the Golden State Warriors, Westbrook carried the Thunder to the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference and achieved something that no player had come close to doing since Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson in 1961-62.
Then Westbrook did it again the next season. And the season after that. Oh, and he also averaged a triple-double last season with the Wizards. The nine-time All-Star helped normalize what was once a rare feat, leaving many fans and analysts almost apathetic about ridiculous box scores. But the OG triple-double king believes that shouldn’t be the case.
During an appearance on the “Knuckleheads” podcast with Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles, Robertson expressed frustration with how media members have seemingly dismissed Westbrook’s statistical accomplishments.
“I look at Westbrook, and he got triple-doubles this year, and no one even noticed it,” Robertson said. “They didn’t think it was such a big deal. … I think that’s totally unfair. I think he should have won [MVP] again. If he [averaged] a triple-double again, and he didn’t win [MVP], so then why keep stats then?”
In his lone season with the Wizards, Westbrook, who was traded to the Lakers this summer, averaged 22.2 points, 11.7 assists and 11.5 rebounds per game, and he passed Robertson as the all-time leader in triple-doubles. When the NBA MVP voting results were tallied, Westbrook received only a single third-place vote. Nuggets star Nikola Jokic ran away with the award, earning 91 of a possible 101 first-place votes.
“I think [Westbrook is] a great basketball player. For some strange reason, some of the sportswriters are saying things that — I don’t know. I don’t even know why they’re saying it because I think they should be trying to promote the game as well,” Robertson said. “To say, ‘Oh, well, he’s got another triple-double, but they got beat.’ So what? if you look at it, only one teams wins every year.”
No reasonable person would argue that Westbrook’s raw numbers aren’t impressive, but Robertson doesn’t paint a full picture.
Washington needed a late-season surge to jump to the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference despite having Westbrook and the league’s second-leading scorer in Bradley Beal. That’s lower than Westbrook’s 2016-17 Oklahoma City team, which didn’t have anyone nearly as talented as Beal. It’s hard to win the award when sitting that low in the standings. (Just ask Stephen Curry.)
Robertson’s bold take also ignores the brilliance of Jokic’s MVP campaign. The Serbian sensation played all 72 games, averaging 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists and joining Robertson and Westbrook as the only players to hit the 25-10-8 thresholds for a full season. He guided an injury-plagued Nuggets squad to the No. 3 seed in the West and reached the conference semifinals. It would be silly to throw his season out of the window because he came up 1.7 assists short of a triple-double line.
As the original “Mr. Triple-Double,” Robertson may feel as though he has to stick up for Westbrook. He is right about the importance of not becoming numb to Westbrook’s greatness.
The MVP thing? Eh, not so much.
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