With the 24th pick of the 1993 NBA Draft, the Rockets selected Sam Cassell, a point guard from Florida State. It wasn’t a popular pick at the time, but turned out to be pretty after winning titles in Cassell’s first two seasons. With that in mind, I went through the 20 drafts after the Rockets took Cassell and made a list of the best 11.
What made the Cassell pick great was that it was made at the end of the first round, so in order for a player to make the list, he had to be taken outside of the lottery, which takes Yao Ming out of the equation. You’ll also notice that not everyone on this list was drafted by the Rockets, but if they were acquired during the draft I counted them. If a player was drafted by the Rockets but traded on draft day (Nic Batum) he wasn’t counted.
I came up with a list of 11 good picks outside the lottery in since 1993. In case you are wondering, Daryl Morey’s first draft as Rockets general manager was in 2007.
#11- Steve Novak
32nd pick of 2006 draft
Rockets don’t win 22 straight games in 2008 without his game-winning three against Sacramento, that’s why he’s on the list. In fairness, he had some success since leaving the Rockets, and is a 43 percent career three-point shooter.
#10- Donatas Montiejunas
20th pick of 2011 draft
Tough to grade him, and I’m not sure he’ll be with the Rockets after the trade deadline, but I don’t think he’ll be a bust. He makes the list because he has been playing well lately, and has skills that make me think he could still be a productive NBA player.
#9- Othella Harrington
30th pick of 1996 draft
Played behind Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, and Kevin Willis his first two seasons in the league. Averaged 22 minutes a game during the 50-game lockout season and averaged close to 10 points and 6 rebounds a game. He was sent to Vancouver in the Francis trade and started all 82 games of the 1999-200 season. Played eight more NBA seasons after that.
#8- Luther Head
24th pick of 2005 draft
Released midway through his fourth season, but prior to that was a decent backup guard especially on the Rockets 52 win 2006-07 team. Head scored 11 points per game that season and shot 44 percent from behind the three-point line.
#7- Chase Budinger
44th pick of 2009 draft
Solid rotation player that gave the Rockets 20 minutes a game for three seasons and averaged close to 10 points per game. He shot a career-best 40 percent from three during the 2011-12 season. Three seasons after the Rockets selected him with the 44th pick, they traded him for the 18th pick.
#6- Kenny Thomas
22nd pick of 1999 draft
He was a better version of Chuck Hayes. He was a little bit bigger, but a much better offensive player. During the 2001-02 season, he started 71 games, played 35 minutes a game averaging 14 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists with a steal and a block. Rockets traded him the next season, and he played seven more NBA seasons averaging a double-double in 2003-04 with Philadelphia.
#5- Carl Landry
31st pick of 2007 draft
Only made one start as a Rocket, but one of the better bench guys they’ve had in a long time. Undersized as a power forward and never averaged more than 5.5 rebounds a game as a Rocket, but was an excellent offensive player that could finish inside and could hit shots outside the paint. In his third season in the league, Landry was averaging over 16 points per game before getting traded to Sacramento. He’s been a double-figure scorer every season since leaving the Rocekts.
#4- Terrence Jones
18th pick of 2012 draft
This ranking is totally based on the last 41 games where Jones has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds a game while blocking 1.5 shots. He’s been a perfect fit in the Rockets fast-paced system. This ranking will probably wind up being way too conservative.
#3- Aaron Brooks
26th pick of 2007 draft
Brooks was Daryl Morey’s first draft pick, and after having little impact as a rookie, but became so valuable the next season that the Rockets traded starting point guard Rafer Alston to get him more minutes. In the 2009 playoffs, when the Rockets upset Portland and took the Lakers to seven games, Brooks scored close to 17 points per game, and in the four games Yao Ming did not play in the Lakers series he increased his output by five points. The next season, he started all 82 games and was the Rockets leading scorer averaging 19.6 points per contest. His career has declined since, but the Rockets were able to get Goran Dragic AND a first round pick for him at the 2011 deadline.
#2- Cuttino Mobley
41st pick of 1998 draft
The Rockets had three first round pick in 1998, and Mobley was much better than all three combined. As a rookie, he was the Rockets starting point guard on a team with Olajuwon, Barkley, and Scottie Pippen, and over the last five seasons in Houston he never averaged fewer than 15.8 points per game, while playing no fewer than 73. During the 2001-02 season, he played 42 minutes a game, scoring more than 21 points each time out. He was a key part of the Rockets trade to get Tracy McGrady.
#1- Chandler Parsons
38th pick of 2011 draft
The Rockets best draft pick of the last 20 years also happens to be one of the best players in the league. In his third season, Parsons is playing over 37 minutes a game, making more than half his shots, 40 percent from the three-point line, and filling up the stat sheet. To see just how important Parsons is to the Rockets, watch them when he isn’t on the floor, especially at the offensive end. Important to note, after drafting Parsons, the Rockets traded him to Minnesota only to buy him back. That move worked out.Follow @AdamSpolane
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