By Alexander Eddy
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” –Thomas A. Edison
Could you imagine if Mo Lewis never hit Drew Bledsoe? Would Tom Brady be where he is at today? It is hard for me to believe that things would’ve turned out the same. In the NBA, similar stories do happen. Whether it is an injury situation analogous to the one I am about to share, or whether it is a C.J. McCollum story, in which opportunity fell into his hands after a Wesley Matthews departure.
Here is a quote from coach Mark Jackson in 2013 just as the playoffs are starting up. “We can’t replace him, and we know that,” Jackson said. “And that’s the thing we have to know right away. He’s an All-Star power forward who’s had an incredible year.” Mark Jackson is referring to the league leader in double-doubles that season with 56, along with 18.5 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. That player is David Lee. David Lee only started one game that postseason due to his hip injury. This injury was the first step in opening the door for Draymond Green.
In that 2012-2013 regular season, rookie Draymond Green only started one game. He only played 13.4 minutes per game, averaged 2.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 0.7. assists. He got some more playing time in the playoffs with 18.6 minutes per game. His production slightly increased with 5.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.6 assists.
David Lee followed his extremely productive season with another one, averaging 18.2 points and 9.3 rebounds in 69 games played. He had a nagging hamstring injury that season. The hamstring injury combined with the Warriors wanting to play Draymond Green more started to hurt David Lee. That postseason, David Lee still started the seven games he played in, averaging 13.9 points and 9.1 rebounds. However, Draymond also had a solid postseason. He averaged 11.9 points, and 8.3 rebounds that postseason. He started in four of the seven playoff games he appeared in. Everyone began to realize the versatility of Draymond Green in the absence of David Lee.
Then came the nail in the coffin. In the 2014-2015 NBA season, the former all-star David Lee only played in 49 games for the Warriors, only starting in four. That season he put up the worst numbers of his career since his rookie season. The double-double machine averaged 7.9 points and 5.2 rebounds in the 2014-2015 season. He did not start one game that postseason. Draymond Green started all 79 games that he played in during that regular season, averaging 11.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists in 31.5 minutes of play. He started in all 21 of the postseason games he played in, averaging 13.7 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 5.2 assists in 37.3 minutes per game. The Warriors went on to win the title that year. David Lee became an afterthought and all of a sudden was a Celtic the next season. The rest is history. Draymond went on to sign a five-year 85 million dollar contract with the Warriors. He had his best season this past year, averaging 14.0 points per game, 9.5 rebounds, and 7.4 assists during the regular season. He was also second in triple-doubles with 13 behind Russell Westbrook’s ludicrous 18.
Draymond took advantage of his opportunity, and it sent David Lee packing his bags. Draymond can guard all five positions, he has great leadership qualities, great passing vision, and is very much the “glue guy” for the Warriors. David Lee’s injuries opened the doors for Draymond to step in and showcase his talents. He played so well, that when David Lee was ready to return, his starting spot was no longer his. The NBA is full of opportunities. Many players never even get their shot. However, if you do get your chance, make sure it counts like Draymond’s did. He went from a second-round pick to an NBA all-star and champion.