By Lucas Masin-Moyer and Daniel O'Boyle
With only six games left to play in the NBA season, Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook has all but assured he will average a triple double — with double-digit totals in points, assists and rebounds. As of April 7, Westbrook was averaging 31.9 points per game, 10.4 assists per game and 10.6 rebounds per game.
Barring any unforeseen drop in form, Westbrook will be the first to accomplish this remarkable stat line since Oscar Robertson did it for the Cincinnati Royals during the 1961-62 season.
What is equally remarkable is how quickly Westbrook was able to increase his output. Westbrook began his career averaging only 15.3 points per game, yet with the departure of teammates James Harden (2012) and Kevin Durant (2016) allowed Westbrook to shoulder more of the scoring burden, increasing his points per game to 31.9.
Westbrook’s increasing playmaking ability to increase his assist output over the course of his career — he finally broke the double-digit barrier during the 2015-16 season.
Perhaps the area of Westbrook’s game which saw the most growth was rebounding. The improvement of this final aspect of his game finally put Westbrook over the top in 2016-17.
Westbrook’s 2016-17 season has been nothing short of remarkable. As the sole superstar on the team following Durant’s departure, he has upped his game to levels unseen in 50 years, the result of years of improvement. — Lucas Masin-Moyer
Data: George Holds Key to Pacers’ Postseason Success
It’s an oft-repeated fact that to succeed in the NBA you need stars who will perform in the postseason.
But which NBA star has been the most important to his team when it counts?
According to on/off stats, it’s not LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Steph Curry. Nor is it Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard or James Harden.
It’s Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George. And by quite some distance.
George is certainly a a top NBA player who is known for his ability to step up his game in the postseason. But the extent to which the Pacers have relied on the former Fresno State star in the playoffs may surprise you.
Among players with 2,000 playoff minutes played, George leads all players in net on/off rating, with a rating of 19.0. That means that the Pacers are better off by 19 points per 100 possessions when George is on the court compared to when he sits on the bench.
That stat is driven mostly by his astonishing defensive on/off rating of 15.4 — the Pacers’ opponents score 15.4 less points per game when they have to face George compared to facing lineups without him. Yet with an offensive on/off rating of 3.6, George helps his team score too, as shown by his career total of 18.4 playoff points per game.
Ranked second is Warriors power forward Draymond Green, who has proven invaluable to the most successful team of recent years. But with a net rating of 14.6, he still sits far behind George. In third is point guard George Hill, formerly of the Pacers, which perhaps shows that a lack of depth in Indiana is behind George’s on/off stats.
With the playoffs approaching and the Pacers tied for 7th in the Eastern Conference, history suggests George will again be the key to how the team performs. If the Pacers can find a way to perform with George off the court, they may become a dark horse candidate to make a deep playoff run. — Daniel O’Boyle
George Leads Pacers in Base Salary
Small forward Paul George has the highest base salary for the Pacers in the 2016-2017 season. George has played with the Pacers since 2010, and is in a five-year contract.
By the 2018-2019 season, George will have a base salary of $20.7 million compared to this year’s $18.3 million. The next highest base salaries of the Pacers are held by Thaddeus Young, Monta Ellis and Al Jefferson. — Lauren Fox