The first half of the 2019-20 NBA season is in the books, which means it’s time to reflect on how the season has gone so far. Grades for all 30 teams have been given out, as well as predictions for who will win every major award at the midway point, so it’s only right to take a look at some interesting facts that unfolded over the first 41 games. There’s been no shortage of record-breaking performances to start this season, from the new generation making a name for itself, to veterans continuing to climb the ranks of leaderboards.
With so much basketball to consume, it can become difficult to keep up with every interesting thing that transpires over the course of the season. So, let’s take a look at 10 interesting facts from the first half of the NBA season.
1. LeBron James became the only player in NBA history to record a triple-double against all 30 teams in the league
It was only a matter of time before LeBron set this record, and what’s actually surprising about this is that it didn’t happen sooner. LeBron completed this feat during a 112-107 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Nov. 19, when he collected 25 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in a Lakers win. What’s more telling about this stat, though, is that in James’ 17 years in the league, he never registered a triple-double against the Thunder. He’s played Oklahoma City/Seattle 29 times in his career during the regular season and fell a few rebounds shy of notching the triple-double a handful of times.
James might get company on that mountain top soon, however, as Russell Westbrook just needs a triple-double against the Thunder to also check off all 30 teams from his own list. Rounding out the top five of players to come close to that feat are Magic Johnson (24), Larry Bird (25) and Jason Kidd (28).
2. Luka Doncic had more 30-point triple-doubles in the first half than all Mavericks players have combined throughout history
Doncic already leads the league in triple-doubles this season with 12, and has the most triple-doubles (20) of any player before turning 21 years old. This stat, though, is even more ridiculous considering he has only been in the league for a year and a half and has already surpassed every Mavericks player in franchise history in 30-point triple-doubles with nine — in this season alone. Jason Kidd only had two with the Mavericks, same with Michael Finley, while Dirk Nowitzki and Mark Aguirre both had one.
The long list of records that Doncic has been breaking this season is absolutely absurd, and the fact that he’s still so early in his career is a scary thought. It won’t be long before he starts showing up at the top of historic leaderboards, and at this rate he may rank in the top three of triple-doubles by the time he’s 25.
3. Giannis posted six 30/15/5 games; no one else in the league has more than one
He’s considered the front-runner for winning his second consecutive MVP this season, he’s got the Bucks sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings and he continues to show improvement in all aspects of his game with each passing day. Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the most dominant well-rounded players in the league, so it’s not surprising that this stat line is becoming commonplace for him. Last season he set the record for most 30-point, 15-rebound, 5-assist games with nine. Halfway through this season he already has six, and is on pace to break that record for the second straight year.
4. The Nets have paid Kyrie Irving nearly $16 million so far this season for only 14 games of action
When the Brooklyn Nets signed Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant this past offseason, both moves were made with the future in mind. Durant is likely to miss the entire 2019-20 campaign with an Achillies injury, so this season was about Irving building chemistry with his new teammates ahead of Durant’s return. However, Irving missing a total of 25 games with a shoulder injury put a halt to any on-court chemistry building. As time went on, people wondered just how severe Irving’s shoulder injury was, considering there were scarce updates on his recovery. While it’s not fair to blame Irving for the injury he suffered, the Nets did decide to give a player who has only played in 60 games a season twice in his career a max contract.
As of Jan. 20, Irving has played in 14 games. His contract with the Nets pays him over $31.7 million this season alone. At the midway point of the season, Brooklyn has paid Irving nearly $16 million, or $400K per game, to sit on the sideline for almost half of the first 41 games of the season. Since returning from the back injury, the Nets have gone 1-3 despite Irving averaging 21 points during that span. It’s Year One of the Kyrie Irving experiment in Brooklyn, and so far he’s sat more games than he’s played and he’s recently even reverted to his old ways again of airing his grievances to the media about his teammates. Brooklyn’s committed a lot to Irving and Durant, and while K.D. will surely be worth it, Brooklyn has to wonder if the injuries and headaches Irving brings will be worth the amount of money they’re paying him.
5. James Harden is the only player who has made a 3-pointer in every game of the season’s first half
Say what you want about Harden’s style of play, but one thing we can all agree upon is he is an absolute marksman from beyond the arc. Every team in the league continues to increase the number of 3-pointers they’re taking in a game, and even still, Harden is the only player in the league who has drilled a 3 in the first 41 games this season. In fact, Harden is on a streak where he’s made a 3-pointer in 62 straight games, starting back in February of last season. Since joining the Rockets, Harden’s 3-point attempts have only increased, and it’s hard to believe that in his first year in Houston he was only attempting 6.2 a game. Now, he’s up to 13.3, which isn’t only a career high but the highest per game in NBA history.
6. Nikola Jokic moved into the top 10 list of career triple-doubles in just five seasons
File this under “facts likely no one knew.” Over a five-day span in mid-December, Jokic tied Bob Cousy for 33 triple-doubles, then two days later passed him after posting 22 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. That triple-double moved Jokic into the top 10 in NBA history, and he now sits just eight behind Fat Lever for moving into the No. 8 spot. What’s more impressive about this stat is that he’s tallied 35 triple-doubles in just five seasons in the league, while Cousy took 14 seasons to get to 33.
Jokic joins Wilt Chamberlain as the only two centers on the top 10 list, and when it’s all said and done he could pass Chamberlain’s 78 triple-doubles. As one of the more under-appreciated stars in the league, Jokic has been the best passing big in the league, and has the court vision of a guard that allows him sling no-look passes to his teammates on the wing that rival what some of the best guards in the NBA can do.
7. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander became the youngest player in NBA history to notch a 20-rebound triple-double
Continuing the trend of unlikely triple-doubles, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander not only notched his first triple-double this season, but he did it while putting up a 20-point, 20-rebound, 10-assist stat line. That’s unheard of for guards to put up 20 rebounds in a triple-double, and he’s actually just the fifth guard to do so alongside Oscar Robertson, Russell Westbrook, Fat Lever and Guy Rodgers. If that wasn’t crazy enough, at just 21 years old he became the youngest player to post a 20-rebound triple-double in NBA history, passing Shaquille O’Neal, who was 74 days older than Gilgeous-Alexander when he did it in 1993.
8. The Warriors have already lost more games this season than they have in any other season during Steve Kerr’s tenure
It’s no secret that the Golden State Warriors have struggled mightily this season without Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, but their downfall has been historic. They’ve won just nine games at the midway point of the season while racking up 32 losses, including a 10-game losing streak that was the franchise’s first since 2002. Nothing is more telling about this season, though, than the fact that the Warriors have already surpassed the number of losses than any other season while Steve Kerr has been the head coach.
Last season Golden State lost 25 games, which was previously the most the franchise has lost during Kerr’s tenure. The Warriors have blown that out of the water with 41 games left in the season. If anything, it puts into perspective just how dominant the Warriors have been for the past five seasons. Injuries have played a role, but it’s still astonishing to see a team that was likely two injuries away from winning its third straight Finals stumble into having the worst record in the league a season later.
9. Boban Marjanovic became the second player in NBA history to record a double-double in 10 minutes or less
Marjanovic is averaging 6.1 points and 4.5 rebounds in 10 minutes of action a game for the Mavericks, but for one night against the Lakers, he made history in the most useful 10 minutes he’s played this season. He put up a double-double in just 10 minutes and 19 seconds, which made him the second player in NBA history to record a double-double in 10 minutes or less. As the tallest player in the league, it’s surprising that he hasn’t done this before as he rarely needs to leave his feet to grab a rebound or score, but having Boban in the record books for one of the most obscure stats is very fitting for him.
10. The Utah Jazz had the best starting lineup in the league with Mike Conley sidelined
Adding Conley was supposed to elevate the Jazz to another level this season, as he was supposed to ease some of the ball-handling duties for Donovan Mitchell. So far, it’s been a far different story as he’s been averaging career-lows this season. When he went down with a hamstring strain, the Jazz actually began playing significantly better, and strung together a 16-3 record. Utah’s performance brought about the conversation of bringing Conley off the bench, and the numbers definitely suggest it should.
In the 19 games the Jazz played without Conley, their starting lineup posted the best net rating per 100 possessions (21.2) of any in the league who have played a minimum of 150 minutes together this season. Having Conley at his best is obviously most beneficial for Utah, but if the Jazz are simply better with him coming off the bench then that’s a move they’ll have to consider long term.