Russell Westbrook is well on his way to being the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double for an entire NBA season. The Thunder’s point guard is averaging 31.4 points, 10.6 rebounds and 10.1 assists through 61 games played and all signs point to him finishing the season with his foot firmly pressed on the gas.
Thursday night was a rare game without a Westbrook triple-double, as he scored 45 points with eight rebounds and four assists in a five-point loss to the Blazers in Portland. After the game, the Inside the NBA crew discussed his record-setting season, and Charles Barkley fired up the hot take machine and said the Thunder would be better if he weren’t trying for triple-doubles.
For starters, the Thunder’s winning percentage when Westbrook has a triple-double is 80%, compared to 36.6% (via ESPN) when he doesn’t have one, so the idea that they’d be better is silly. Also, Barkley is equating the wrong things in his argument.
Barkley notes that Westbrook was forcing things on Thursday night with 36 shots, and that isn’t wrong. What he is wrong about is that Westbrook taking 36 shots to score 45 points is somehow connected to him pushing for triple-doubles. Westbrook doesn’t need 45 points to get a triple-double, what he needs are more than four assists. If anything, were Westbrook gunning for a triple-double on Thursday night, he would have tried to over pass and get his assist total up.
He didn’t do that, because his teammates were having a rough night. Only two players shot above 50% from the field on Thursday night for the Thunder, Alex Abrines (2-of-3) and Taj Gibson (6-of-9). A more efficient Westbrook would have certainly helped the Thunder more in Portland, but on a night when only Gibson (15 points) and Enes Kanter were in double-digits, Westbrook felt the need to carry the scoring load.
It was a bit of a rough night for the Chuckster, who also had some difficulty when talking about the trade between the Blazers and Nuggets, causing Shaq to prompt him with a “get to the point dot com” as he spun his tires when trying to ask Kenny a question.
Barkley can criticize Westbrook for shooting too much if he wants, but it’s a non-sequitur to connect Westbrook taking lots of shots with him trying too hard for triple-doubles.