Sports Reference Blog

Russ & Harden’s Oscar-Worthy Performances

Posted by Mike Lynch on January 5, 2017

We all know Oscar Robertson became the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double when he averaged 30.8 PPG, 12.5 RPG and 11.4 APG in 1961-62. Though he didn't have the benefit of first-class air travel, modern nutrition and training techniques, he did have the benefit of playing for a team that averaged an estimated 124.9 possessions per game, while playing over 44 minutes per game. Though I don't want to diminish the stamina required to perform at a high level at such a frenetic pace, the point stands that there were more opportunities for a player to accumulate counting stats in 1962 than there are in 2017, where the average game has about 96 possessions.

Still, even if we adjust statistics to a Per 100 Possessions basis, few have ever matched Oscar's production. Robertson averaged an estimated 26.7 Pts, 10.8 Reb & 9.9 Ast per 100 possessions in 1961-62. At Basketball-Reference, we have estimated per 100 possessions statistics for every player back to 1973-74 (when the advent of tracking of offensive rebounds, among other stats, made the estimates more reliable). From 1973-74 to 2015-16, a total of just four player seasons (by three players) matched The Big O's Per 100 Possession statistics. They were by do-it-all forwards Grant Hill & LeBron James (twice) and then Russell Westbrook, last season. But, now, the 2016-17 NBA season has TWO players doing that. Russell Westbrook, in his most ridiculous form yet, and James Harden, who has emerged as the perfect player for Mike D'Antoni's relentless attack. But it's not that these guys are matching Robertson's production. They're obliterating it.

Let's first consider Westbrook's numbers.

And yet, saying that Westbrook is like a combination of peak Jordan's scoring with peak Malone's rebounding and peak Kidd's passing doesn't even do justice to how breathtaking his level of activity on the floor is.

As for Harden, the numbers aren't as eye-popping as Westbrook's, but his scoring and rebounding are roughly equivalent to peak LeBron James, except with 50% more assists thrown in. So, I guess that's pretty decent.

Query Results Table
Per 100 Possessions
Player Season Age Tm Lg PTS TRB AST
James Harden 2016-17 27 HOU NBA 37.8 10.9 15.9
Russell Westbrook 2016-17 28 OKC NBA 44.1 15.0 14.9
Russell Westbrook 2015-16 27 OKC NBA 33.9 11.3 15.1
LeBron James 2012-13 28 MIA NBA 37.5 11.2 10.1
LeBron James 2008-09 24 CLE NBA 40.8 10.9 10.4
Grant Hill 1996-97 24 DET NBA 30.9 13.0 10.5
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/5/2017.
Tonight, the former teammates will square off for the 13th time in their regular-season careers, with each player owning six wins to this point. Harden is currently the overwhelming favorite to the win the MVP Award, but it's still early. Anyways, with their matchup tonight, we just wanted to take the opportunity to gawk at their absurd 2016-17 seasons.
Top Candidates Table
Rk Player Tm W/L% eFG% FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PTS Prob%
1 James Harden HOU .750 .528 .847 8.2 11.9 1.4 0.3 5.7 28.4 57.6%
2 Kevin Durant GSW .861 .594 .868 8.6 4.7 1.2 1.6 2.3 25.8 16.1%
3 LeBron James CLE .765 .559 .683 7.8 8.5 1.4 0.6 3.9 25.8 8.8%
4 Russell Westbrook OKC .583 .462 .821 10.5 10.5 1.4 0.3 5.3 30.9 5.2%
5 Stephen Curry GSW .861 .575 .929 4.3 5.8 1.7 0.1 2.8 24.2 3.0%
6 Kawhi Leonard SAS .800 .530 .918 5.9 3.1 2.0 0.6 1.9 24.0 2.9%
7 Chris Paul LAC .632 .543 .877 5.3 9.5 2.2 0.2 2.3 17.7 1.9%
8 Kyle Lowry TOR .676 .585 .854 4.9 7.1 1.4 0.3 2.9 22.2 1.6%
9 Giannis Antetokounmpo MIL .529 .559 .779 9.1 5.8 1.9 2.0 2.9 23.9 1.5%
10 Kevin Love CLE .765 .534 .872 10.9 1.7 1.1 0.4 2.1 21.8 1.3%
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/5/2017.

One Response to “Russ & Harden’s Oscar-Worthy Performances”

  1. keving18 Says:

    Westbrook is not a particularly good passer. He leaves his feet when he passes and uses deception rarely. That's why his turnovers are so high. He accumulates a lot of assists anyway because he dominates the ball so much. Really, nobody else is allowed to create on that team except for him, at least while he's on the floor.

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