The Year of the Triple-Double in the WNBA

On Saturday night in Brooklyn, the New York Liberty host the Chicago Sky in a matchup of the two players tied for the most career triple-doubles in WNBA history – Chicago’s Candace Parker and New York’s Sabrina Ionescu.

Candace and Sabrina have each recorded three triple-doubles in the WNBA with two apiece coming this season. They alone account for 37.5% of the 16 total triple-doubles in the league’s 25-plus year history.

Sabrina Ionescu 7/6/22 NYL @ LVA 36 31 13 10 0 0
Moriah Jefferson 6/28/22 MIN vs. DAL 34 13 10 10 2 0
Candace Parker 6/23/22 CHI @ LAS 26 10 14 10 1 2
Sabrina Ionescu 6/12/22 NYL vs. CHI 38 27 13 12 0 0
Candace Parker 5/22/22 CHI @ WAS 30 16 13 10 0 0
Courtney Vandersloot* 9/28/21 CHI @ CON 44 12 10 18 4 2
Sabrina Ionescu 5/18/21 NYL vs. MIN 37 26 10 12 0 1
Chelsea Gray 7/7/19 LAS vs. WAS 34 13 10 13 0 0
Courtney Vandersloot 7/20/18 CHI vs. DAL 37 13 10 15 1 1
Candace Parker 7/28/17 LAS @ SAN 34 11 17 11 0 4
Temeka Johnson 7/24/14 SEA vs. NYL 33 13 10 11 1 0
Sheryl Swoopes* 9/3/05 HOU @ SEA 36 14 10 10 2 0
Deanna Nolan 5/21/05 DET vs. CON 37 11 10 11 1 0
Lisa Leslie^ 9/9/04 LAS vs. DET 38 29 15 3 2 10
Margo Dydek^ 6/7/01 UTA vs. ORL 34 12 11 3 3 10
Sheryl Swoopes 7/27/99 HOU vs. DET 32 14 15 10 3 2
* playoffs ^ 10+ BLK


When looking at that list above, it’s easy to spot that triple-doubles are happening at a much faster rate over the past two seasons than they did in the early years of the league. There have been seven triple-doubles in the past 14 months, compared to nine in the first 24 years of play.


At the All-Star break, there had been five triple-doubles in 136 games played in the 2022 regular season; meaning a triple-double was recorded in 3.676% of this season’s games. Compare that to 11 triple-doubles over 5,599 games played over the first 25 years of play, which equates to a triple-double rate of 0.196% of games played.

There have been five triple-doubles alone in the 2022 season with three weeks of the regular season and the playoffs still on the horizon to add to that total. The 2022 season is the first regular season with multiple triple-doubles in league history.

In total, 10 players have recorded a triple-double in a WNBA game and only four have done so more than once: Parker and Ionescu each with three, Courtney Vandersloot and Sheryl Swoopes each with two (split between regular season and playoffs). Considering Vandersloot will also be on court this Saturday, that means that exactly half of the WNBA triple-doubles ever will be represented in the same game.

Before we delve into the numbers and examine why triple-doubles are now on the rise, here a few other notables regarding triple-doubles in the WNBA.

  • On July 6 against Las Vegas, Ionescu not only tied Parker’s record for career triple-doubles, she also posted the first 30-point triple-double in league history. Sabrina reached three triple-doubles in just her 55th career game, while Parker’s third came in her 433rd career game.
  • On June 23 against her former team in Los Angeles, Parker recorded a triple-double in just 26 minutes – not only the fewest minutes played with a triple-double in league history, but the first one in under 30 minutes on court.
  • On September 28 of last year, Vandersloot not only became the second player to ever record a playoff triple-double – 16 years after Swoopes first did it in 2005 – Sloot also dished out the most assists in a triple-double with 18, which also tied her own WNBA record for most assists in a game.
  • Two of the first three triple-doubles in league history were not the traditional points-rebounds-assists variety, but rather points-rebounds-blocks as centers Lisa Leslie and Margo Dydek dominated the paint. They remain the only two triple-doubles that featured blocks rather than assists as the third component along with points and rebounds.
  • Parker holds the mark for the most rebounds in a triple-double as she corralled 17 boards in her first triple-double back in 2017.
  • Of the 16 triple-doubles in league history, 14 have come by a player on the winning two, with only two coming in a loss (Ionescu on June 12 and Temeka Johnson back in 2014).

So why has there been such an increase in triple-doubles in 2022 compared to previous seasons? In searching for that answer, we had to dig into the numbers behind the triple-double. Please note that all stats below are based on games played through the 2022 All-Star break.

The first thing we have to find is the missing piece and as the numbers below illustrate, the assist column has been the biggest hindrance to triple-doubles as there have only been 569 total games in which has player has reached double-digit assists, compared to nearly 38,000 double-digit scoring games and over 5,200 double-digit rebound games.

Game Stat Total Games
10+ points 37,920
10+ rebounds 5,263
10+ assists 569
10+ steals 1
10+ blocks 4
Double-double (PTS-REB) 4,143
Double-double (PTS-AST) 336
Double-double (PTS-STL) 0
Double-double (PTS-BLK) 4
Double-double (REB-BLK) 2
Double-double (REB-AST) 18
Double-double (AST-STL) 1
Triple-double (PTS-REB-AST) 14
Triple-double (PTS-REB-BLK) 2


Increase in assists

So far in 2022, the WNBA is seeing more assists than any other season in league history with a league average of 20 per game per team.

As assist numbers continue to climb, so will more opportunities for players to complete triple-doubles. While there have only been 16 completed triple-doubles in WNBA history, there are another 14 games in which a player finished one assist shy of completing the feat, with Parker accounting for half of those instances with seven near-misses.

When looking for the source of these extra assists per game, there are two factors that immediately come to mind – field goal percentage and pace of play. Are teams shooting higher percentages now compared to past seasons, thus completing the potential assists at a higher rate than before? Are teams playing at a faster pace, thus having more possessions to work within in order to score more points, grab more rebounds and dish out more assists?

Average pace of play

When looking at the chart below, which tracks average pace per 40 minutes over the course of WNBA history, we see a dramatic leap in pace from 2005 (69.40 possessions per 40 minutes) to 2006 (77.08 possessions per 40 minutes). It has climbed above 80 possessions per 40 in two of the past three seasons, including the 2022 season (80.55).

Average shooting percentages

At the All-Star break, the league average field goal percentage for the 2022 season was 43.8%, which is on pace to be the sixth-highest average shooting percentage in league history. Of the five seasons currently higher than 2022, only one comes before 2016, which illustrates an overall rise in shooting accuracy, even as the chart below shows a higher level of fluctuation year to year than we see in pace and assists.

But there is another shooting percentage metric that needs to be added to this breakdown – effective field goal percentage, which accounts for the added value of 3-pointers. At the All-Star break, the 2022 season has the second-highest average eFG% on record (49.5%), trailing only the 2020 season (50.0%). The top four seasons in average eFG% have come since 2018, with the 2019 season being the only outlier (47.4%), as the chart below shows.

Average 3-point makes/attempts

When looking at the rise in assists – and the rise in triple-doubles along with it – we have to look not only at shooting percentages, but the type of shots that teams are taking. The rise of the 3-point shot across all leagues and levels of the game also plays a part in this equation.

At the All-Star break, an average of 59.8% of 2-point field goals were assisted, compared to 88.3% of 3-point field goals. As teams have increased their 3-point attempts over the years, their assist averages have risen along with them as 3-pointers are assisted at a much higher rate than 2-pointers.

Multi-faceted players

The final key factor in this analysis is the players that put up these numbers and how they have evolved as the game has evolved over the first 2 ½ decades of WNBA basketball. There have always been multi-faceted players in the WNBA, beginning with the first player to ever sign a WNBA contract – Sheryl Swoopes – who recorded the league’s first triple-double and until last year’s playoffs was the only player with multiple triple-doubles.

Swoopes was a wing that could pass like a point guard, score like a shooting guard and rebound like a forward. A decade later, Parker was drafted into the WNBA after being listed on her Tennessee roster as a guard/forward/center. A dozen years later, Ionescu also entered the league at No. 1 after setting the all-time NCAA triple-double record for women or men.

Players that can stuff the stat sheet and affect the game in a variety of ways are no longer seen as unicorns, but rather the new prototype of an elite player. Triple-doubles are a byproduct of the new prototype and expect more of them to come this season and beyond.

Longtime WNBA reporter Brian Martin writes articles on throughout the season. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.