Greatest NBA Draft steals in Houston Rockets history
The Houston Rockets have had their fair share of star players over the course of the franchise’s history. At the same time, many of the team’s best players (Hakeem Olajuwon, Yao Ming, Elvin Hayes, and Ralph Sampson) were selected early in their drafts and were expected to be stars.
With that being said, the Rockets, like most teams, still have found ways to find diamonds in the rough late in the draft. Without these draft-day steals, the franchise wouldn’t be the same today.
5. Clint Capela
The most recent player on this list, Houston made the intriguing decision that caught the attention of several Rockets news outlets, taking a chance on a raw, athletic big man from Switzerland with the 24th overall pick in 2014. That choice ended up working in their favor as, even though he is no longer on the team, Clint Capela developed into one of the most underrated centers in the NBA today.
It took a while for Capela to hit his stride but before being traded to the Atlanta Hawks, the 25-year-old big man was averaging 13.9 points, 13.8 (third-highest mark in the NBA), and 1.8 blocks per game while shooting an extremely efficient 62.9 percent from the field.
4. Mike Newlin
Alongside players like Rudy Tomjanovich and Calvin Murphy, Newlin helped create a solid core for the Rockets in the 70s. Newlin was never really a star but when a team drafts a player in the second round (24th overall), they aren’t really expecting to get a star.
Regardless, the 6-foot-4 shooting guard gave Houston eight solid seasons including a career-best 18.6 points, 5.6 assists, and 4.1 rebounds per game during the 1975-76 season.
3. Stu Lantz
Back when the team was in San Diego, the Rockets drafted a 6-foot-3 point guard out of the University of Nebraska in the third round (23rd overall). Stu Lantz only played four seasons for the Rockets which prevents him from being higher on this list but in those four years, Lantz developed into a great second option besides Elvin Hayes.
Lantz had his best season in 1970-71 when he averaged 20.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game and although the Rockets weren’t particularly good during this time, Lantz was still a steal.
2. Cuttino Mobley
Like the previous three players on this list, Cuttino Mobley was never an All-Star but was still a really good player for a number of years. The Rockets lucked out when they drafted the Rhode Island standout with the 41st pick of the 1998 draft.
Mobley played six seasons with Houston and was able to make an impact straight away. His best season came in 2001-02 when he averaged 21.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game while shooting nearly 40 percent from deep.
The Rockets weren’t good that year but the backcourt of Mobley and Steve Francis was exciting to watch.
1. Calvin Murphy
One of the best players under six feet tall in league history, Calvin Murphy was selected with the first pick of the second round (18th overall) back in 1970 out of small-school Niagara University.
At just 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, Murphy was able to become one of the best scorers of the 70s. The undersized point guard played all 13 of his seasons with the Rockets and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.
Murphy averaged 20-plus points per game in five separate seasons and was even named an All-Star in 1979.