Triple-doubles in the NBA are not as unique as they used to be

On Wednesday night, LeBron James recorded his seventh triple-double of the season. It was notable because it was the 78th triple-double in the NBA this season, tied for the most since it became an official statistic during the 1983-84 season, and we still have about one-fourth of the season left to play.

That record is not the only notable statistic surrounding triple-doubles this season. Russell Westbrook picked up his 30th triple-double of the season on Tuesday. That is the third-most in a single season and just 12 short of breaking Oscar Robertson’s all-time record of 41. In addition, Westbrook and Harden have combined for 10 games this season in which they scored at least 40 points and had a triple-double. There were only 19 such games in the previous 33 seasons combined.

While it is clearly “The Year of the Triple-Double,” this may just be the beginning of a new trend in the NBA. Several factors seem to make today’s NBA more conducive for triple-doubles: 1) teams are playing faster, which allows for more opportunities to add to counting statistics; 2) more teams are putting the ball in the hands of their best player more often, giving those players more opportunities to accumulate points and assists; and 3) teams are shooting more three-pointers than ever before, which not only spreads the defence out and makes the lane less congested for rebounds, it also leads to longer rebounds, which are more likely to end up in the hands of smaller players.

As a result, the NBA is on pace for 106 triple-doubles this season, more than double the total just two years ago. In fact, during a 25-year stretch that ended with the 2014-15 season, the NBA averaged 35 triple-doubles and did not have a season with more than 50. In other words, maybe all these triple-doubles are just the new norm.

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