Three’s Company Two

Posted by Ian Levy on March 3, 2011 under Commentary | 4 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2011-03-03 at 11.44.23 AM

Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, a contributor to Indy Cornrows, and is now a part of The Two Man Game family. He’ll be bringing his intelligent brand of — mostly quantitative — analysis here on a weekly basis. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.

On Tuesday night, Jason Kidd recorded his 107th career triple-double. He currently sits third on the all-time list behind only Oscar Robertson (181) and Magic Johnson (138). From 1987 on, no one even approaches Kidd’s mark. The most by an active player other than Kidd is LeBron James with 31. These triple doubles are just one statistical bullet point on Jason Kidd’s Hall of Fame résumé, but for some reason I find them especially captivating.

Even the minutiae are fascinating. These 107 remarkable games have covered 17 seasons and three different teams. 21 of them have come in his two separate stints with the Dallas Mavericks. 61 came with the New Jersey Nets; 25 with the Phoenix Suns. Kidd’s win percentage in triple-double games is 0.707. He even once recorded a quadruple-double…by racking up 14 turnovers in a game against the Knicks in November of 2000.

A triple-double is an example of a player raising his game in three key statistical areas. For Kidd, it’s an example of him raising his game in almost every area. The table below shows Kidd’s per game statistics for the 107 games in which he recorded a triple double.


Despite the fact that Kidd has not been a very accurate shooter over the course of his career, in these triple-double games, he shoots a higher percentage from the floor, free throw line and three point line while also averaging more steals. He’s playing more minutes in those games as well, but that factor doesn’t exactly boost his shooting percentages.

The other thing I find amazing is how far in front he is of every other current player in this particular category. The only reasonable candidate to surpass Kidd’s mark for the modern era is LeBron. The table below is meant to give an idea of LeBron’s chances of catching Kidd. It shows the percentage of their games played where they reached double figure points, rebounds, assists or all three.

Total Games PlayedGames with >10 Reb.% of Games with >10 Reb.Games with >10 Ast.% of Games with >10 Ast.Games with >10 Pts.% of Games with >10 Pts.Triple Doubles% of Games with a Triple Double
LeBron James60611919.6%10216.8%59898.7%315.1%
Jason Kidd124721317.1%55944.8%85868.8%1078.6%

LeBron is much more likely then Kidd to reach double figure point or rebounds, but Kidd has the edge with regards to assists and our focus here, triple-doubles. Over Kidd’s career he has recorded a triple double in 8.6% of his games played. This works out to roughly 1 out of every 12 games. LeBron’s average is closer to 1 out of every 20 games he plays.

Let’s assume Jason Kidd never racks up another triple-double before retiring. Now, this is extremely unlikely considering that Kidd has another 22 games left this season and isn’t exactly staring down retirement. Yet as unlikely as that scenario is, we’ll use it to go easy on LeBron in our imaginary scenario. At his current pace of a triple double in 5.1% of his games, LeBron would need to play another 1,486 games to pass Kidd. In case you don’t have a calculator in front of you, that’s a little over 18 full seasons. All of a sudden his chances don’t seem quite as reasonable.

At his current pace, Jason Kidd would need another 362 games (with production relatively consistent to his career numbers) to pass Magic Johnson. This is pretty much outside the realm of possibility, so it looks likely he’ll finish his career where he currently sits, 3rd on the all-time list. However, when you consider the historical context, Kidd’s achievement is at least as impressive as what Robertson and Magic accomplished.

The average league pace over Kidd’s career has been 91.3 possessions per game. In only 1 of his 17 seasons was the league pace above 93.0. The average league pace over Magic’s career was 100.9 possessions per game. In only 3 of his 17 seasons was the average league pace below 100.0. Because turnovers weren’t tracked in his era, we don’t have pace numbers for Robertson, but with teams averaging well over 110.0 points per game during his time in the NBA, I feel comfortable saying he played in a significantly more up-tempo league.

I’m hoping the significance of the faster pace is obvious. Just in case it’s not: a faster pace means more possessions; more possessions means more opportunities in each game to accrue points, rebounds and assists. Playing in a different era, Kidd may very well have been the NBA’s all-time leader in triple-doubles.

There is something elegantly simple about the way a triple-double signals a player’s impact on the game. For Jason Kidd it states that over the past 17 seasons his versatility has impacted basketball games as much as anyone’s.

  • Rxlcrab

    A beautifully written piece on the legend that is Jason Kidd! I find it astounding that LeBron James is only 2.5% more likely to grab 10+ rebounds in a game than Kidd, is there an active guard in the NBA who can even remotely approach his Rb numbers? In a way, every superstar in this league is unique, and can't be really emulated. Still, as a Kidd fan, where am I going to find the next Point Guard who can take over a game in every aspect like he does? The age of the spectacular passing from PGs seems to be waning, and with Kidd's eventual retirement, the art of jaw dropping no look passing on the fast break seems destined to vanish. I wish the next generational PG with god-like passing abilities, like Magic, like Kidd, like Nash, would hurry up and get here already. It's been more than 15 years, we're due one right? Right?!

  • Shawn

    Rxlcrab brings up “who is next”, the only PG (other than Nash-ty) with elite level court vision is Darron Williams**. But I think the real key is where will J-Kidd land as a coach. After watching JJB carve up Sacto its clear that Barea has learned a thing or two from Kidd. I'm certain Cubes will make a run at Kidd to join the Mavs as an assistant coach (I bet he'll start whispering soon, if not already). That said if Prokhorov has any sense in him (and Avery can swallow his pride) he'll throw whatever amount of cash it takes to get Kidd to train D-Will.

    ** While I'd say CP3 is the “best” PG in the league, but I'd rank his court vision a full notch below that of D-Will

  • Jkiddfan

    Great work. I fear the day -sooner than later- when Kidd retires. Not only for what that would mean for the Mavs but for what it would mean for the game.

  • Vijay S

    This is very interesting data you have here. For all the nonsense Kidd gets about his shooting, he is much more accurate than LeBron and some of the other so-called great scorers. Not to mention he's 3rd All-Time in 3 pointers behind the two greatest shooters ever (Reggie Miller and Ray Allen). The fact that shooting is considered his weakness is a testament to his remarkable versatility; nobody has a better combination of shooting, rebounding, and passing.

    Read my take on this and more on my NBA blog: