To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Houston Rockets, Space City Scoop would like to honor the greatest of each position to play in Houston.
The Houston Rockets are celebrating their 50th anniversary of existence as an NBA franchise. Although they have not accumulated as rich a legacy as the Celtics or Lakers, there are still many great memories and players to look back on over five decades.
The staff at Space City Scoop will be ranking some of the greatest players that have come through the organization in the last 50 years, looking at the top five players at each position.
We’ll be looking at two criteria for these lists: the players’ lasting imprint on the team’s history and their overall impact during their tenure in Houston.
For players like Elvin Hayes and Tracy McGrady who played multiple positions for the Rockets, we are ranking them based on the position associated with their respective careers. With that said, James Harden will not appear among the best point guards in Rockets history.
Speaking of point guards, let us start this celebration off with the best floor generals to ever play for the Houston Rockets.
Next: Sleepy Floyd
Years with Rockets: 1987-1993
Stats: 11 points and 5.4 assists per game
From 1987 to 1993, Eric Augustus “Sleepy” Floyd became one of the best point guards to ever step on Houston’s hardwood floor. Although he would not be the scoring machine he was in Oakland, Floyd was the perfect playmaker to play alongside Hakeem Olajuwon.
Floyd put up strong numbers during his tenure with the team, but his biggest accomplishment was his reliability on the nightly basis. During his five-plus seasons in Houston, Floyd played in all 82 games every year. That’s saying a lot of a player for a franchise that has seen their fair share of legends get derailed by injuries.
Floyd was a stepping stone for the players who won consecutive titles, and was traded a year before the Rockets’ first championship run.
According to basketball-reference.com, Floyd is ranked eighth on the Rockets all-time total assists board with 2,363 dimes. He also ended his Rocket career with the eighth highest assist percentage per game with 28.8%.
A reputation as a hard working and reliable playmaker is what puts Sleepy Floyd among some of the best players in Rockets history.
Next: John Lucas
Years with Rockets: 1976-1978, 1984-1986, and 1989-1990
Stats: 11.6 points and 7.3 assists per game
Next to Ralph Sampson, John Lucas may possess the second biggest “What if?” in Rockets history. A variety of injuries and addiction to substance abuse prevented Lucas from reaching his full NBA potential. However, when healthy, he was just as talented as any other point guard of his era.
Selected with the number one overall pick in 1976, Lucas played three separated stints in Houston (1976-1978, 1984-1986 and 1989-1990). He put up respectable numbers over his five years in Houston, but his best came during the 1985-86 season.
Lucas was a valuable member that helped the Rockets advance to the 1986 NBA Finals. Before losing to the Boston Celtics in six games, Lucas appeared in 65 games averaging 15.5 points, 8.8 assists, and 1.2 steals per games.
Older fans who remembered Lucas have wildly considered him to be the greatest facilitator in Rockets history. His career average of 7.3 assists per game ranks the highest in franchise history and he sits at third in assist percentage with 32.1%.
Although his NBA career never reached the pinnacle he showcased at the University of Maryland, the obstacles he overcame in life are far more impressive.
Next: Kenny Smith
Years with Rockets: 1990-1996
Stats: 12.5 points and 5.2 assists per game
Today he can be found as an analyst on Inside the NBA, but during the mid-90s, Kenny Smith was responsible for orchestrating Houston’s offense on both championship teams. He played six years in Houston and became one of the greatest shooters in Rockets history.
During his tenure in Houston, Smith shot an incredible 40.7% from downtown, which is the third highest 3-point percentage of any Rockets player. He also has the seventh most 3-pointers in franchise history with 521 made attempts.
As a player who grew up under the bright lights of New York, Smith had his best performance on the biggest and brightest stage in Houston.
In Game 1 of the 1995 Finals against the Orlando Magic, Smith set a then-Finals record with seven three-pointers, including the game-tying shot which sent the game into overtime. While leading the Rockets to a 120-118 win, Smith Scored 23 points and dished nine assists.
Although he is far from the Hall of Fame players that played in Houston, one cannot deny Kenny Smith’s value to both Rockets championships.
Next: Steve Francis
Years with Rockets: 1999-2004, 2007-2008
Stats: 17.1 points and 5.8 assists per game
As a Rockets fanatic growing up during the early to mid-2000s, Steve Francis became one of my favorite players of all time. Behind Tracy McGrady, Francis is my second favorite Rocket in the history of the team. But put aside the bias opinions, Francis had one epic run in Houston.
Nicknamed Stevie Franchise, the 6’3 point guard from the University of Maryland became known for his flashy crossover dribble, scoring ability, and phenomenal dunks.
During the early to mid-2000s, he was considered one of the elite point guards in the league. At the time, the Rockets were in search for a new talent to rebuild around, as their franchise player Hakeem Olajuwon’s career was ending.
After sharing Rookie of the Year Honors with Elton Brand in 2000, it was clear that Francis was the new face of Clutch City.
Throughout his five years in Houston, Francis filled the stats sheets every night for the Rockets. He joined Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, and Grant Hill as the only players in league history to average at least 15 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds in their first five seasons.
Arguably his best game with the Rockets came on January 17, 2002, when Francis led Houston to a 108-104 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. Francis scored his career-high of 44 points and dished out 11 assists in the overtime victory. On a personal level, Francis had a great career but lacked in the success of the team.
Although his legal troubles have tarnished his legacy over the years, Steve Francis will always have a special place in the hearts of many Rockets fans.
Next: Calvin Murphy
Years with Rockets: 1970-1983
Stats: 17.9 points and 4.4 assists per game
Arguably the greatest player to stand under 6-0 foot, Calvin Murphy paved the way for little guys to have an impact on the league.
Originally drafted 18th overall by the San Diego Rockets in 1970, Murphy played his entire 13-year career with the Rockets and is recognized as one of the best in franchise history. He is one of 10 former Rockets to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993, as well as one of five players to have their number retired by the organization.
Despite an all-star sub, Murphy’s best season came during the 1977-78 NBA season. He averaged 25.6 points per game while shooting 49.1% from the field. In a loss against the New Jersey Nets in March of 1978, Murphy scored 57 points, setting the franchise record for most points in a single game.
This one-time All-Star appeared in the second most games played by a Rocket with 1,002, second among players with the most field goal made with 7,242, first in assists with a total of 4402, and was once the Rockets all time leading scorer with 17,949 points before Olajuwon came and took his place in 1994.
With that said, Calvin Murphy is and will forever be the greatest point guard in the history of this franchise.
Stay tuned as we go through our Top 5 Lists for each position in Houston Rockets history. Agree/disagree? Leave a comment with your opinion!