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Year of the triple-double
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Another one?

That's the first thought that popped into my head after Paul Millsap completed a triple-double Tuesday against the Raptors.

And not because it's something Millsap does all the time. In fact, Tuesday was the first triple-double of his eight-year career.

But that's the point. If Millsap can get a triple-double, how hard can they really be?

Apparently not that hard because before I could blink, Isaiah Thomas had pulled off the same feat in Sacramento.

In total, we've seen 33 triple-doubles in the NBA this season by 20 different players. And though that sounds like a lot, it's actually nine fewer than we had in 2012-13. Of course, most teams still have at least ten games left so that could easily change.

But doesn't it feel like we're seeing triple-doubles almost every night?

Calling the 2013-14 season the year of the triple-double may be a stretch. So instead, let's call it "The Year of the Almost Triple-Double."

No, the "almost triple-double" isn't an official statistic, but it should be. I classify an almost triple-double as coming within one point, rebound or assist (or block, though that's rarely the case) of a triple-double.

For example, LeBron James, who ironically has no triple-doubles this season, collected 36 points, 13 boards and nine assists February 12 in a win against Golden State. Overall, James has completed the almost triple-double three times this season.

Kevin Love, who does have one triple-double this season (it came in a win over Utah on February 22), has come within one assist of a triple-double three times in 2013-14. Kevin Durant has done it twice.

If we make our qualifications a little more lenient, the list is practically endless. Rajon Rondo has a slew of eight and nine rebound-games while Lance Stephenson has gone for seven, seven and seven on 12 different occasions. Lance's stat line against the Wizards on November 29th might be the strangest we've seen in the NBA this season: seven points, 11 rebounds, ten assists and eight turnovers. That's almost a quadruple-double.

So what gives with all the stat-stuffing? Scoring seems to be about the same while double-doubles are being compiled at a similar rate to last season.

Maybe it isn't the triple-doubles themselves that we should be investigating but rather the players who record them. Of the 26 players who had at least one triple-double last season, eight of them were point guards (30.8 percent), six were small forwards (23.1), five were centers (23.1), four were power forwards (15.4) and three were shooting guards (11.5). That's a pretty even distribution.

That balance appears to be a thing of the past though. A whopping 55 percent of the players who have triple-doubled this season did it while playing point guard. That's a substantial increase from the 30.8 percent ratio we saw a year earlier.

Point guards are supposed to distribute so racking up ten assists in a game is a pretty common occurrence. The ten rebound portion of the triple-dip is a bit harder to come by. Unless you're enormous.

And that seems to be the theme with the current crop of NBA point guards. No longer are we in a world dominated by 6-foot-1 John Stockton and Nick Van Exel types. The NBA landscape is now inhabited by the likes of physical specimens like John Wall and Ricky Rubio (both 6-foot-4). The likely Rookie of the Year, Michael Carter-Williams of the 76ers, is even taller than those two. NBA.com lists him at 6-foot-6.

Sure there are a few outliers (5-foot-9 Isaiah Thomas and 6-foot Kyle Lowry), but for the most part, the smallest players on the floor aren't that small anymore, and it's leading to higher rebounding averages. Five point guards are averaging at least four boards per contest this season. Two years ago, only two (Wall and Russell Westbrook) were rebounding at that high a rate.

But that doesn't mean Wall and Westbrook (6-foot-3) are the first floor generals to take advantage of their superior size. Far from it. Gary Payton and Gilbert Arenas were both 6-foot-4, as was triple-double machine Jason Kidd (led the league in triple-doubles four years straight from 1999-02). Don't worry, I didn't forget about 6-foot-9 Magic Johnson, the patron saint of triple-doubles (138 in 13 seasons).

So did all this research lead straight to a dead end? Possibly. When you're a fantasy writer, over-analyzing comes with the territory.

I think the point, if there is one, is that the NBA is evolving. Point guards aren't 5-foot-11 string beans anymore and on any given night, guys like Paul Millsap can get you a triple-double.

You know the ironic thing about all this? The team coached by Jason Kidd, the Brooklyn Nets, has yet to produce a triple-double this season. Go figure.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.


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