Biggest Triple-Double Threats in the NBA

Kelly Scaletta@@KellyScalettaFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2014

Biggest Triple-Double Threats in the NBA

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    The triple-double is one of the demarcations of a great game. On a certain level it seems to be nothing more than an anomaly of a player hitting arbitrary statistical demarcations that coincide with the number of digits we have on our hands. It’s more than that, though. 

    Triple-doubles are rare. Since the start of the 1984-85 season, there have been 72,798 games played, per Basketball-Reference.com’s Play Index. There have been only 1,242 triple-doubles in those, occurring at a rate of just 1.7 percent.

    In that span, 2,401 players have taken the court with just 248 (9.1 percent) of them ever recording a triple double and barely half of those (131) notching more than one. Only 29 have more than 10.

    However, when they do occur, the player’s team has won 931 (75 percent) times. So it’s not only a statistical oddity, it’s an indication of dominance. It means that the triple-doubler is leaving an impression on three aspects of the game, and that leads to winning.

    Guys who can consistently post triple-doubles are not only rare, they’re a valuable asset.

    So which players are most likely to do that this season? To determine the answer, I used a combination of what players have done and what they are doing. I looked at who has the most triple-doubles in their careers and what they have done recently.

    However, context was also considered. Kevin Garnett might be fourth in triple-doubles among active players, but the odds of him getting one this year are pretty slim. He has just three double-doubles this year. Lance Stephenson has the most in the last two seasons but seems to be caught in a downward spiral now with the Charlotte Hornets. So neither makes the club.

    This list is ranked based on how many triple-doubles the players are likely to notch this season, least to most.

5. Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    The league’s youngest stat-stuffer is Michael Carter-Williams. In just his second season he already has four triple doubles, though his Philadelphia 76ers aren’t faring that well in those games, having just pulled in the W in one. 

    Williams is averaging 21.0 points, 11.5 rebounds and 11.8 assists in those games. He’s also shooting a relatively healthy (for him) 48.4 percent from the field.

    But Carter-Williams' production is also in part the byproduct of being on an extremely lousy team. It will be interesting to watch as he and the Sixers grow to see if he can maintain the same level of production and help turn them into winners.

4. Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Joakim Noah has had seven career triple-doubles. He is unique in one aspect: He is the only active player to record two different kinds of triple-doubles. He has six with points, rebounds and assists, and one with points, rebounds and blocks.

    Noah has the third-most triple-doubles over the last three seasons with six, but with the balanced approach in Chicago because of the massive depth, his chances are slightly less of getting more this year.

    The fact that he can register them in multiple ways makes him a constant threat to get one. And of all the players currently in the league, he’s the biggest threat to notch a quadruple-double.

3. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Danny Bollinger/Getty Images

    Russell Westbrook’s career has always been saddled to Kevin Durant. That’s a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because it means that his Oklahoma City Thunder win a lot. It’s bad because when they don’t win it’s always “Westbrook’s fault” but when they win it’s because of Durant.

    So now, he’s getting a chance to show what he can do without Durant, and he’s showing that he’s just as critical a piece to the Thunder winning as Durant is. All Westbrook has done is be awesome.

    He has averaged 28.0 points on 55.2 percent true shooting, 7.3 assists and 5.7 rebounds. While none of his eight career triple-doubles have come this year, he did just miss one on Dec. 28 with 18 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, albeit in a losing cause to the Dallas Mavericks.

    Westbrook’s energy and attack-everything approach make him a constant threat to fill a stat sheet. Maybe this year, as he’s proving himself sans Durant, will be the time when he finally gets credit for how much he helps the Thunder to win.  

2. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    LeBron James has 37 career triple-doubles in the regular season and 11 more in the playoffs. That makes him the active leader in both.

    He’s had the most dominant triple-doubles, too, averaging 28.9 points, 11.6 rebounds and 11.3 dimes when he notches one. His teams have won 36 of those contests.

    But he’s not first on the list because, surprisingly, he has had just one since the 2012-13 season and none this year.

    That’s just one in his last 126 games. By comparison, the first 47 came 903 games—or once every 19 games. Is this more indication of James’ decline?

    It’s part that and part anomaly. He had three double-doubles with points and rebounds this year and eight with points and assists, so it’s not like he’s missing on any one category. He’s also failed to reach it by one assist (Nov. 10), two assists (Nov. 26) and three rebounds or assists on numerous occasions.

    He will have some triple-doubles this season, but it’s hard to avoid the realization that the rate has slowed considerably.

1. Rajon Rondo, Dallas Mavericks

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    Brandon Wade/Associated Press

    Rajon Rondo already has 32 triple-doubles in his career, which puts him at a pace of one every 16.4 games—a rate that is even better than James’ was before he hit his dry streak.

    Rondo’s triple-doubles are different than the others, though. While most of the players who rack up a lot of them tend to be heavy scorers, Rondo’s assists (14.5) nearly match his points (15.7). He scored 15 or fewer points in 14 of them.

    That particular kind of triple-double is something I call a triple-Rondouble. He is by far the leader among active players. Rondo is also the active leader in double-doubles where he missed the triple-double on points. That’s a feat he’s “accomplished” six times. He excels at the hard parts.

    He is constantly hovering around a triple-double, filling the stat sheet, even when he’s not dominating the game with scoring. He already leads the league this year with three triple-doubles and more are coming.

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