By the Numbers: Do double-doubles matter?

Among many NBA fans, announcers, headline writers and – most especially – fantasy team managers, double-doubles seem to possess an almost mystical quality. They’re esteemed as a sort of litmus test of production, a reliable quick-glance measure of whether a player can fill up the stat sheet.

Analytics geeks and gurus, on the other hand, tend to dismiss the double-double as a rather arbitrary, and unelucidative stat. Sure, the set of players who average double digits in two columns is a fairly select bunch, but nobody’s going to argue that DeAndre Jordan (who’s in the dub-dub club this season) is even remotely close to the caliber of LeBron James and Kevin Durant (who are not).

Despite the fact that I lean heavily toward the latter camp (fantasy team aside), when both Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried put up double-doubles in Denver’s rout of New Orleans, it piqued my curiosity as to the team’s success rate when that happens.

As it turns out, it’s fairly impressive.

“They’ve come to the forefront as the cornerstones that this team is going to be built around.”

– Brian Shaw, on the leadership roles of Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried

Kenneth Faried and Ty Lawson have double-doubled in the same game eight times this season, including the recent win over the Pelicans. The Nuggets are an impressive 7-1 (.875) in those games, which is terrific in comparison to their current losing record of 33-42 (.440).

That’s a remarkable difference, but it’s important to point out that we’re dealing with relatively rare events and small sample sizes here, and also with correlations which do not necessarily amount to causations.

With so few data points, these stats are merely suggestive, and not strong, compelling evidence. So just to be clear: None of this is to assert that Denver could be a top seed in the West if only Ty and Kenneth double-doubled every game. They’ve had success when it’s happened, and it’s hard to say anything much more conclusive than that.

At a bare minimum, however, the success of the double Ty-Kenneth double-double suggests that when the chemistry between Lawson and Faried is clicking, it may well be tough for nearly any team in the league to beat the Nuggets. That should bode well for Denver’s future, and might be especially important considering the meeting recently reported by Aaron J. Lopez of in which Brian Shaw and the Nuggets coaching staff urged Lawson and Faried to more assertively take up the mantle of leadership.

As he did with Faried, Ty Lawson also double-doubled in the same game as J.J. Hickson eight times this season. However, the #Nuggets were 3-5 (.375) in those games.

Individually, the picture doesn’t get any better for Hickson. Despite the fact that he has had the most double-doubles for the Nuggets this season, with 26, Denver went 12-14 (.462) in those games, just slightly besting their overall record, and still on the losing end of the ledger.

By contrast, in the 23 total games Lawson has double-doubled, the Nuggets are 13-10 (.565), and likewise, in the 22 total games Faried has accomplished the feat, the Nuggets are 15-7 (.681).

Taken as a whole, all of this seems to paint the picture that when Lawson and Faried double-double it tends to have a markedly positive impact on Denver’s chances of winning, while Hickson, on the other hand, puts up “empty” double-doubles which have little effect, positive or negative, on the outcome of games. Again, we should probably be cautious not to read too much into these numbers, but it could be something interesting to watch for going forward if all three players are still on the roster next season.

With a total of seven, Mozgov is fourth on the Nuggets in double-doubles. In those games, Denver has gone 2-5 (.286). And the Nuggets lost the one game in which both he and Lawson hit the mark. That’s not much data to go on, but what’s there would suggest that Timo might join J.J. in the empty double-double category.

I’m still not sold on the notion that double-doubles are that big a deal in and of themselves, but it is clear that the Nuggets have had much more success when Lawson and Faried have gotten them than when they haven’t. And while certainly not worth obsessing over, tracking whether this trend holds through next season could help shed a little light on whether the whole double-double thing has much significance or not.


You can follow me on Twitter here: @denbutsu






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Joel is a long time Denver Nuggets (and Broncos) fan from Colorado who's been living in Japan since the mid-90s, and blogging about the Nuggets since 2008. You can contact and follow him on Twitter: @denbutsu.
  • Poz303

    I am firmly in the camp that there is no such thing as “empty” double-doubles, it takes too much skill to achieve those in the NBA. However, I do think that JJ is a defensive liability and likely got most of his double-doubles playing out of position (starting C).

    When analyzing statistical data it usually helps limiting the variables. NBA statistics certainly have a myriad of variables attached to them. Hence the difficulty of stating anything with certainty. Who was the opposition when JJ got his double-double? Who was injured on the Nuggets?

    I think Faried can inspire teammates when he is playing well as many of his stats come from energy plays (offensive rebounds and put backs) which can motivate others on the floor. How did the bench play when Faried got his double double? What did the other starters do?

    I like the analysis even with the SSS. Where there is smoke, there is fire and it may be something to look into further and next season.