James Harden and Russell Westbrook are both have historical seasons. Harden, a shooting guard, leads the league in assists and is second in scoring. Westbrook, a point guard, leads the league in scoring and is second in assists. They’re both also turning the ball over at a record pace, which is pretty obviously a good thing.
Westbrook is averaging 30.6 points, 10.4 assists and 10.6 rebounds in 34.6 minutes per game. The Thunder are 25-19 and in 7th in the West.
Harden is averaging 28.9 points, 11.6 assists and 8.3 rebounds in 36.6 minutes per game. The Rockets are 33-12 and in 3rd place in the West.
In order to put up these insane numbers and carry their teams to all these wins, both players are being relied on an incredible amount. Westbrook leads the league in usage rate at 41.9%. The next highest USG% in history is Kobe Bryant’s 38.7 in ’05-’06.
(Make no mistake – this is a big year for big numbers in every way. Before this season only 55 players had ever had a usage rate over 33%. This season six guys are doing it – Harden, Westbrook, DeMarcus Cousins, DeMar DeRozan, Isaiah Thomas and Anthony Davis. This is a mind-boggling season of individual efforts.)
Harden and Westbrook lead the league in double-doubles and triple-doubles. Westbrook has 21 triple-doubles this season and Harden has 13. As it stands now, Harden is tied for 15th place for the most triple-doubles in a season. Westbrook has the 6th most. The Thunder have 38 games remaining and the Rockets have 37 left to play. So both guys have plenty of time to keep adding to those incredible numbers.
Which brings us back to the turnovers. Harden is currently averaging 5.7 turnovers a game and Westbrook is averaging 5.5. The only person to ever average 5 or more turnovers per game is Kobe Bryant.
To be fair to Kobe, he averaged 5.7 turnovers in ’13-’14 when he only played 6 games. Kobe only averaged 3 turnovers a game over his two decade career. In ’04-’05 he averaged 4.1 turnovers in 66 games. (The lesson? When in doubt, throw it to the rim instead of a teammate.)
The next closest anyone ever came to Harden and Westbrook is “Pistol” Pete Maravich in the ’77-’78 season when he averaged 4.96 turnovers a game. That’s the first season Basketball-Reference has turnovers stats for Maravich.
Harden and Westbrook are also set to smash the record for total turnovers in a season. Harden set that record last year with 374. The previous record was 366 by Artis Gilmore in the 1977-1978 season. Westbrook is currently on pace for 451. Harden for 467.
These numbers, like Stephen Curry’s three-point shooting in previous seasons, are incredible and previously, unthinkable. They’re also indicative of how valuable these guy have been. Turnovers come with high usage and having to carry a team. If you’ve ever needed proof these are the two MVP front-runners, look no further than their astronomical turnover numbers.