Despite having only two championships in franchise history, the Houston Rockets have had some of the best players the league has ever seen.
What’s even more impressive is that the Rockets have drafted a handful of Hall of Famers, proving their eye for talent over the years has been good.
For this piece, we will rank the five best draft picks in the Rockets’ franchise history. To recall, Houston used to be the San Diego Rockets, and the team’s first draft pick was all the way back in 1967.
5. Ralph Sampson
The Rockets drafted Ralph Sampson with the first overall pick in the 1983 draft out of Virginia. In his college career, Sampson averaged 16.9 points and 11.4 rebounds per game.
Ralph was a monster as soon as he stepped foot on an NBA floor. He put up 21.0 points and 11.1 rebounds per game during his rookie season for the Rockets, easily winning the 1984 Rookie of the Year Award.
In 305 games with the team, Sampson averaged 19.7 points and 10.5 rebounds. He was a four-time All-Star and led Houston to the playoffs three times.
The Rockets traded Sampson to the Golden State Warriors in 1987. He’s seventh all-time in franchise history in points per game. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.
4. Yao Ming
Yao Ming was the first overall pick in the 2002 draft. The 7-foot-6 center was all over Rockets news at the time, being projected to take over the league and make Shaquille O’Neal irrelevant.
While Yao had a Hall of Fame career with Houston, he was never able to dim the spotlight on O’Neal, as Yao only got past the first round of the postseason once.
Yao finished his Houston career with averages of 19.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game. He shot 52.4 percent from the field and 83.3 percent from the free-throw line.
During the 2006-07 season, Yao put up 25.0 points and 9.4 rebounds while leading the Rockets to 52 wins. Yao, who was named a Hall of Famer back in 2016, is the seventh leading scorer in Houston franchise history.
3. Calvin Murphy
The San Diego Rockets selected Calvin Murphy with the 18th overall pick in the 1970 draft. He played his college ball at Niagara University.
As a rookie, Murphy showed his knack for scoring the ball right away, averaging 15.8 points per game at the age of 22.
The Rockets became the Houston Rockets for the 1971-72 team. The franchise hasn’t looked back since.
Murphy spent his entire Hall of Fame career with the Texas team. He averaged 17.9 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 4.4 assists in 1,002 games en route to the Hall of Fame (1993).
2. Elvin Hayes
Elvin Hayes was the first overall pick in the 1968 draft out of Houston. He spent the first four years of his NBA career with the Rockets, putting up a staggering stat line of 27.4 points and 16.3 rebounds through his first 328 pro games.
However, the Rockets traded Hayes to the Baltimore Bullets for Jack Marin in the summer of 1972. Hayes spent the next nine seasons with the Bullets, who eventually turned into the Washington Bullets.
From 1973-1981, Hayes averaged 21.3 points and 12.7 rebounds for his new team. He got to end his career with the Rockets after the Bullets traded him back to Houston in 1981.
Hayes was named a Hall of Famer in 1990.
Was there ever any doubt who was going to be number one on our list?
The Rockets selected Hakeem Olajuwon with the first pick in the 1984 draft. He’s one of the most decorated players in NBA history and brought two championships to the city of Houston.
Olajuwon was a 12-time All-Star, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, and the 1994 regular season MVP. The Dream won two Finals MVPs, too. He finished his Rockets career with averages of 22.5 points and 11.4 rebounds.
Hakeem is the franchise leader in games, minutes, field goals, total rebounds, steals, blocks, points, and win shares. He’s one of the best centers in NBA history and the Rockets were lucky to have him in Houston.