When Enes Kanter walked off the court and slammed his fist into the lone wobbly chair on the Thunder bench, he didn’t just break his arm or the Thunder’s second unit offense. Kanter’s frustration may end up costing Russell Westbrook his season-long triple double average.
Through 57 games, Westbrook is averaging 31.1 PPG, 10.1 APG, and 10.5 RPG. He recorded his 27th triple-double last night in a win over the Knicks. On the season, OKC is 21-6 when Russ gets one, vs 11-19 when he falls short. In other words, regardless of where Westbrook finishes, it behooves his young team for him to keep trying, but here is where the loss of Kanter hurts the most.
Since Kanter was injured, the Thunder are only 4-6, with five of those losses being blowouts. And a big reason why, as we saw in OKC's loss to the Wizards, is that when Westbrook's teammates aren't making shots, they can get blown out quickly. Kanter, shooting 56% on the season, is the salve for those long droughts, and Westbrook is the primary set-up man for Enes.
Per NBA.com, 22% of Westbrook’s passes to Kanter this season have resulted in an assist – by far the highest percentage of any Thunder player. And that only tells part of the story. According to Basketball-Rerference.com, the Thunder score 9.1 points per 100 possessions more than their opponents when Westbrook and Kanter are on the floor. Considering that Kanter remains a negative defender, and the stats start to back up what seems obvious to the eyes – OKC is extremely tough to defend when Westbrook and Kanter are on the floor.
With Kanter injured, the Thunder have averaged 104 points per game, after averaging 106.3 points each night with him featured heavily on offense. One might assume such a drop would result in fewer assists to go around.
And one would be correct. With Enes Kanter active for the first 47 games of the season, the Thunder averaged 21.3 assists per game as a team. Without Kanter, that average has dropped all the way down to 19.5. Westbrook has, of course, been heavily affected by Kanter’s absence, with his nightly assists dropping from 10.2 to 9.6 with Kanter active and inactive, respectively.
Huge outputs in the scoring and rebounding columns have been a constant for Westbrook this season, and that kind of double-double would still be pretty good. How good? It’s never been done by a guard in league history (Basketball Reference classifies Oscar Robertson as a Guard/Forward).
Ultimately, though, even an unprecedented double-double would represent a massive let down this late into the season. Westbrook’s assists need to start coming in bunches again, but that is proving to be extremely difficult with Enes Kanter sidelined.
With 25 games left, here is what Russ needs to do:
This is a snapshot of his last 82 games, dating back to the 2015-16. Russ is just 9 agonizing rebounds short of a triple double average: