Sean Pendergast

NBA Draft: The Five Best and Five Worst Houston Rockets Picks of the Past 20 Years

The 2016 NBA Draft is tonight, which is something that, a few years ago, would have had me so excited that I would ponder taking a vacation day on Friday so I could ensure maximum enjoyment Thursday night. At one time, not all that long ago, I was an unabashed NBA Draft dork. If you were ever at a "Geeks Who Drink" trivia night on NBA Draft history, I would be a total ringer for you.  

I don't often brag about encyclopedic knowledge about anything, but the NBA Draft? I'm your huckleberry. However, in the past few years, some of the enjoyment has been sucked from the draft, for a couple of reasons:

1. The early part of the first round is virtually all one-and-done players or foreigners, which means chances are stardom is way in the future, if at all, for a lot of these guys.

2. There are stupid rules the NBA has according to which a guy who gets drafted may actually be getting selected on behalf of another team who's acquired that pick in a trade, but the NBA doesn't allow announcing of the trades until after the draft, even though Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski has announced every trade on Twitter while the draft is going on. This leads to awkward post-selection interviews with some of the guys in which they have to act happy to go to a team we all know they're not going to. 

The Rockets don't have a first-round pick this year, just two second rounders — the 37th and 43rd picks overall. We will see what Daryl Morey has up his sleeve. The second round has been good to the Rockets before. In fact, let's take a look back at the 20 drafts since the Rockets last won a championship and check out their biggest hits and most hideous misses.


5. Aaron Brooks, G, Oregon (2007, 1st round, 26th overall)

Brooks looked like he had "point guard of the future" potential, at one time. Coming off a stellar 2009 postseason (including the game above), Brooks followed that up with a Most Improved Player award the following season, averaging nearly 20 points a game in 2009-2010. However, Brooks could never shake the ill will over not getting a long-term agreement done, and the presence of Kyle Lowry eventually necessitated a trade to Phoenix for Brooks, who ultimately has settled in as the ultimate journeyman. 

4. Cuttino Mobley, G, Rhode Island (1998, 2nd round, 41st overall)

In 1998, the Rockets had three first-round picks (more on them in a second), yet it was their second-round pick that draft that made, by far, the biggest impact. Mobley became a fixture in the Rockets' backcourt alongside Steve Francis, who came in the next season, for some of the least watchable Rockets teams of all time. 

3. Jeremy Lamb, G, Connecticut (2011, 1st round, 12th overall)

Lamb never really did squat for the Rockets, but he was part of the trade that brought James Harden to Houston, good enough to crack the top five! (NOTE: The Rockets have kind of been underwhelming at drafting the past couple of decades.)

2. Chandler Parsons, F, Florida (2011, 2nd round, 38th overall)

It's funny; technically the Rockets drafted Parsons, traded him on draft night, then essentially bought him back from the Timberwolves that night for cash. Not bad for a guy who became the Rockets' second-best player during the first year of the Harden era before getting a max deal from Dallas. Parsons is the crown jewel of Daryl Morey's draft résumé. 

1. Yao Ming, C, China (2002, 1st round, 1st overall)

Hard to screw up the No. 1 overall pick, and the Rockets didn't. If only his feet could've held up his gigantic body for more than just a few years. If only...


5. Rodrick Rhodes, F, USC (1997, 1st round, 24th overall)

Back in 1997, the Rockets were trying to draft young pieces that could fit a rotation that included Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Charles Barkley. They drafted Rhodes with the 24th pick, and his NBA career lasted 72 games. (But that video above is sweet. Check out the springy, athletic version of Jason Kidd!)

4. Marcus Morris, F, Kansas (2011, 14th overall)

Kawhi Leonard was picked 15th. That is all. (Jay Bilas saying the Rockets should feel lucky that Morris "fell to them" at the 14th pick is depressing.)

3. Dickerson/Drew/Turkcan (1st round, 14th, 16th, and 18th selections, 1998)

After wasting their first-round pick on Rhodes the previous season, the Rockets hedged their bets in 1998. No way they could screw up three first-round picks, right? Um, wrong. Even worse, this was the draft where a nearly suicidal Rashard Lewis, straight out of Elsik High School, sat in the green room until the 32nd pick. 

2. Eddie Griffin, F, Seton Hall (2011, 7th overall)

Just a sad story. As in 1998, the Rockets managed to accrue three first-round picks, using them on Richard Jefferson, Jason Collins and Brandon Armstrong and flipping all three for Griffin, who was one of the true blue chippers in high school in Philadelphia, but washed out in the NBA before eventually dying in a car accident while "watching" porn in his car. (I told you it was a sad story.) Needless to say, the Rockets should've just kept Jefferson and been done with it. 

1. Royce White, F, Iowa State (2012, 16th overall)

Not only a terrible pick, but a horrible teammate who gamed the system for more than a year with the Rockets, getting paid while claiming that the team was reneging on travel promises to address White's anxiety issues. Last I checked, White had eaten his way out of several opportunities to play basketball and had learned to play the piano.

#BeWell, Royce. 

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at and like him on Facebook at    
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast