Originally found in San Diego, The Rockets would relocate to Houston in 1971. The Houston Rockets would struggle during the early years before they made impact in the league. They didn’t finish the season with a winning record until years later, as they were led by Moses Malone who would go on to become a two-time MVP while with the Rockets.
The 1984 draft was a turning point for them as they selected Hakeem Olajuwon, who became the greatest Houston Rocket of all time. Hakeem would eventually lead the Rockets to their first championship during the 1993-1994 season. That year in the playoffs, their comeback rally turned the city from “Choke City” to “Clutch City.”
The following year the Rockets would trade for Clyde Drexler who would pair with Hakeem to lead the Rockets to their second NBA championship. Even in the Rockets’ best years, they had some really bad players on their team. These players range from players that just did not pan out to those who were overpaid.
15. Best: Yao Ming
Yao Ming was one of the greatest big man for the Houston Rockets in history. He could have led the Houston Rockets to many championships, if not for foot injury problems that plagued his career. Yao was also the tallest player in the NBA at 7’6, aside from Manute Bol at 7’7. He was drafted first overall by the Rockets in the 2002 NBA draft, and he had a great career as a Rocket despite playing only playing eight years in the NBA.
Yao was a cultural phenomenon when he came into the NBA. Even with all his injuries, he still had a global impact on the game of basketball, helping increase its popularity in China. He led the Rockets to the postseason for four consecutive years, including the Western Conference Finals in the 2009 Playoffs.
During his career, Yao had eight All-Star appearances, making five All-NBA teams. In July 2011, Yao announced his retirement from the NBA. He was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.
14. Worst: Eddie Griffin
Eddie Griffin was drafted no. 7 overall by the Houston Rockets in 2001. Those in the NBA thought he was going to be a great power forward standing at 6’10 tall. He could shoot and those closest to him thought he would develop a post-up game. He was a very good player coming out of Seton Hall. Griffin was a high pick that turned out to be a bust.
Griffin was really bad early in his career with the Rockets but bottomed out late in his career. In his first year in the league, he averaged 8.8 points 0.7 assists and 1.8 blocks. His stats and production in his second year would steadily decrease.
13. Best: Calvin Murphy
Calvin Murphy was drafted first overall in the second round (18th overall) by the San Diego Rockets in 1970. Although he was the smallest player in the league, Murphy made the All-Rookie team in 1970. Throughout his career, he averaged 17.9 points and ended up with a total of 17,949 points. Murphy used was one of the smallest and quickest player in the NBA. He used his height and ability to get to basket to score at will in his career. He ranks third in the NBA for consecutive free throws made at 78 and hit 206 for 215 for a .958 percentage in the 1981-82 season.
He finished his career on second place on the Rockets scoring list behind Hakeem Olajuwon with 17,949. He was voted to the 1979 All-Star game. Murphy’s number is also retired above Toyota Center. In 1993, he was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
12. Worst: Ty Lawson
Ty Lawson was considered to be one of the best point guards in the league during his tenure with the Denver Nuggets, where he started his career after being selected with the 18th overall pick in 2009. Following some very solid seasons in the league, Lawson struggled with alcoholism which affected his performance on the court.
In his only season with the Rockets, Lawson averaged 5.8 points shooting 38 % from the field. He wouldn’t even finish the season with the Rockets as he was waived in March 2016. Most thought that Lawson was a huge steal for the Rockets, but as it turns out, he was a bust for them which earns him a spot on this list.
11. Best: James Harden
There’s no doubt that James Harden has already earned his place on this list, although an honorable mention goes out to Tracy McGrady. Harden was traded to the Rockets in 2012, where he would go on to be a 5-time All-Star, making two All-NBA First teams. This season, he’s making a strong case as the league’s MVP, leading the Rockets to the third seed in the Western Conference.
Harden is currently leading the league in assists with an average of 11.2 per game, while being the second top scorer with 29.4 points. His most noticeable accomplishment to this date has been leading the Rockets to a Western Conference Finals appearance in 2015.
10. Worst: Charles Barkley
Let’s get it out of the way – Charles Barkley was not a bad player for the Houston Rockets. His career with them was very interesting as there was so much intrigue. Barkley joined the Rockets with the hope of winning his first ring. His stint with the Rockets would be fun but would not produce a championship.
Barkleys’ Rockets career was plagued by injuries and controversy. He was criticized for showing up out of shape in his final season with the Rockets. Additionally, he admitted to being unmotivated after having to take a $4 million paycut.
9. Best: Elvin Hayes
Elvin Hayes was drafted by the San Diego Rockets first overall in 1968. He finished third in the league in scoring in his first year at 27.5 and fifth in rebounding at 16.8. In the 1970-71 season, he scored 27 points and grabbed 16.8 boards. The Rockets improved that year but barely missed the playoffs.
In Hayes’ last year with the Rockets, he averaged 25 points but the Rockets missed the playoffs for the third straight year. After the season was over, Hayes was traded to the Baltimore Bullets. Hayes would end up retiring after the 1983-1984 regular season. In his last year in the league, he moved into a reserve role with the Houston Rockets alongside Moses Malone. In 1990, he was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. He averaged 21 points 12 rebounds and 1.8 assists.
8. Worst: Bryce Drew
Bryce Drew was drafted by the Houston Rockets in the first round with the 16th pick. He was hyped out of college as a great shooter with his heroics coming out of college. The Rockets thought he would be an extra component to their team with the pick.
Drew never amounted to anything in the NBA. He was overly hyped going from college to the NBA game, averaging 5.8 points and 4.3 points his first two years in the NBA.
Drew played six seasons in the NBA while playing for three NBA teams. His number and ability decreased as his career went on. Bryce Drew would go down as one of the worst draft picks in Houston Rockets history.
7. Best: Clyde Drexler
He was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers in 1983 but didn’t win a championship until he was traded to the Houston Rockets. In his rookie season, he only averaged 7.7 points per game for the Portland Trailblazers. After the season, he had 10 straight seasons as one of the top scorers in the league.
At the beginning of the 1994-1995 season, he was traded to the Houston Rockets. He was reunited with his former teammate Hakeem Olajuwon. Hakeem and Clyde led the Rockets from the sixth seed to their second NBA championship. Drexler averaged 26 points on .706 percent shooting and 5 rebounds.
Drexler was the Rockets’ second leading scorer alongside Hakeem, averaging 20 points 7 rebounds and 5 assists. While in the conference finals, Drexler and Olajuwon became the first pair of teammates to score 40 points in a game.
6. Worst: Scottie Pippen
Scottie Pippen was acquired by the Houston Rockets to form a “Super team” with Charles Barkley and Hakeem Olajuwon. The team finished the NBA lockout year with a 31-19 record. The Rockets lost in the first round of the NBA playoffs to the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite the hype, the “Super team” could not live up to their talent. In his only season in Houston, Pippen averaged 14.5 points 5.9 rebounds and 2.0 steals. He was still a productive player even after his time with the Bulls. Pippen could not live up to the hype of the team the Rockets put together.
Pippen’s days were numbered as fatigue and stamina plagued him with his old age. He would also feud with fellow teammate, Charles Barkley, throughout the season. Pippen demanded a trade after the season, which put the Rockets in the lottery for years to come.
5. Best: Rudy Tomjanovich
He was a five time NBA All-Star and the number 2 selection of the Rockets in the 1970 NBA draft. Rudy T spent all of his career with the Houston Rockets. He is the third leading scorer in history behind Hakeem Olajuwon and Calvin Murphy.
Rudy T also coached the Rockets for 12 seasons leading them to a 503-397 regular season record and a 51-39 playoff record. As a coach, he led the Rockets to their first ever NBA championship. As a player he averaged, 17.4 points 8.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists for his career. He was one of the Rockets best small forwards of all-time and was named on the 50 greatest players list.
4. Worst: Kelvin Cato
Cato was originally signed to be a replacement for Hakeem Olajuwon. Cato was hyped up for his defensive skills. The Rockets thought they could use Hakeem to tutor Cato to be his replacement. Cato was signed at the end of the 1999 season.
Cato had a solid first year with the Rockets in the 1999 and 2000 season. He averaged 8.7 points 0.9 blocks and 4.0 rebounds per game for the team. Those within the Houston organization thought Cato would be the dominate force that Olajuwon was. Overall, Cato would never become what others thought he could be. After seeing Hakeem’s greatness, Houston fans were hoping for another great big man. Cato averaged 5.5 points 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks for his career.
3. Best: Moses Malone
Moses Malone had a short stint in the ABA before he was acquired by the Houston Rockets in the 1976-77 season. After being acquired by the Rockets that season, he helped them win the Central Division. Malone dominated in the 1978-79 season, averaging 24.8 points and 17.8 rebounds, winning the NBA MVP.
Moses led the Rockets to their first ever NBA finals appearance in 1982, and was named Finals MVP despite losing the series. Moses was one of the most successful prep to pro players ever. He played 21 year’s total in professional basketball, winning his only NBA championship in 1983 with the Sixers. Malone was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.
2. Worst: Maurice Taylor
Maurice Taylor was drafted in the 14th round by the LA Clippers in 1997. He played around nine years in the NBA. The Rockets signed him as a free agent at the beginning of the 2001/2001 season. He was expected to do a lot in the league with his height and length but never amounted to much. Taylor was hyped up so much coming out of Michigan. Those in the NBA thought he would be a dominant forward in the league.
His career started off well but quickly bottomed out. He had three really good years with the Clippers but with Houston, he did not do so well. In Taylor’s last year with the Clippers, he would average 17.1 points. This led to the Houston Rockets signing him the following season. For his career, he averaged 11 points 4.6 rebounds and 0.5 blocks. Taylor was supposed to be much more for the Houston Rockets.
1. Best: Hakeem Olajuwon
Hakeem Olajuwon was drafted in the 1984 draft by the Houston Rockets. Despite his lanky frame, he averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds in his rookie year, finishing second in the Rookie of the Year race to Michael Jordan. He won the Defensive Player of the year in 1992.
The 1993-1994 campaign would be Hakeem’s record setting year and best overall year as a player. Hakeem also led the Rockets to the playoffs. Hakeem would lead the Rockets to back-to-back championships in 1994 and 1995. Hakeem averaged 21 points 11 boards and 3 blocks for his career with the Rockets. He’s considered to be an all-time great with most experts placing him in their top 10.
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