3 Best Houston Rockets Draft Picks

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Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets battles for position in the low post in an NBA game in December 2006.
(Wikimedia Commons/Keith Allison)
Anatoly Pimentel @AnatolyPimentel Sep 18, 2023, 4:17 PM
  • Here's a list of the best Houston Rockets’ picks in franchise history.
  • Hakeem Olajuwon leads the list of players Houston selected through the draft.
  • Other notable Rockets players include Ralph Sampson and Yao Ming.

The Houston Rockets are tied for sixth with the Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks in the list of winningest NBA franchises in history with two NBA titles. They won back-to-back championships in 1994 and 1995 after losing the two previous NBA Finals in 1981 and 1986 to the Boston Celtics in six games on both occasions. The franchise used these setbacks to select players in the draft that boosted their NBA championship odds.

Among the draftees that Houston had was Hakeem Olajuwon, who became the face of the team for 17 seasons as he spearheaded the championship campaigns of the Rockets during the 1990s. Because of his contribution, he made the cut as one of the best Houston Rockets draft picks. Apart from Olajuwon, who are the other two players who will complete the top three? Find out below.

Hakeem Olajuwon

As mentioned earlier, Hakeem Olajuwon is one of the players that Houston selected in the draft. He was drafted as the number one overall pick in 1984. The seven-foot center instantly imposed his presence on both ends of the floor with his double-double averages of 20.6 points and 11.9 rebounds with 2.7 blocks per game in his first year with the team. Despite these incredible numbers, he came short of winning the Rookie of the Year award in 1985 because of Michael Jordan. Olajuwon ended up getting included on the All-Rookie 1st Team.

The former University of Houston standout sustained his offensive production of over 20 points per game for 13 consecutive seasons, which made him a 12-time NBA All-Star and six-time member of the All-NBA 1st Team. Aside from his offensive skills, Olajuwon also showcased his defensive abilities and secured back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards in 1993 and 1994. But one of “The Dream’s” ultimate accomplishments was leading Houston to the promised land twice in 1994 and 1995.

Ralph Sampson

Before the arrival of Olajuwon in 1984, Houston had already drafted another big man, Ralph Sampson, as their first overall pick in 1983. The 7-foot-4 power forward was the first unicorn player in the league, as he had the body frame of a center but the skills of a guard. Because of his unique ability, he racked up a first-season average of 21.0 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks to win the Rookie of the Year award in 1984.

When Olajuwon joined the team the following year, Sampson continued his double-double output until 1986, as they complemented each other. Unfortunately, multiple injuries hit Sampson, which slowed him down and caused a significant dip in his numbers. These injuries also became the main reason why the Rockets traded him in 1987 to the Golden State Warriors. In 305 games for Houston, Sampson averaged 19.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.7 assists across four-and-a-half seasons.

Yao Ming

History repeated itself in 2002, when the Rockets drafted another center as the first overall pick in the draft, 18 years after they selected Olajuwon. This time, they picked Yao Ming from China. The 7-foot-6 giant had a similar play style to Sampson and Olajuwon, and he immediately established himself as one of the top centers in the league with an output of 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game in his first season to make the cut on the All-Rookie 1st Team of 2003.

Yao slowly and steadily improved his numbers season after season as he became Houston’s anchor inside the paint. Sadly, like Sampson, “Ming Dynasty’s” career was derailed by injuries, particularly with his knee and foot and cut his tenure short in the league. Despite the brief stint, Yao still became an NBA All-Star in all eight league seasons. In 486 games, the Chinese center racked up an average of 19.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks.

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About the Author

Anatoly Pimentel

Read More @AnatolyPimentel

Anatoly Pimentel is an NBA and MMA writer previously featured in ASEAN Sports, Asian Persuasion MMA, and Overtime Heroics MMA. He graduated from Adamson University with a B.A in Communication and is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM.

Anatoly Pimentel is an NBA and MMA writer previously featured in ASEAN Sports, Asian Persuasion MMA, and Overtime Heroics MMA. He graduated from Adamson University with a B.A in Communication and is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM.