Dec 16, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Former Houston Rockets player and head coach Rudy Tomjanovich waves to the crowd during the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
To celebrate the 50th year 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 nor 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 best 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. for instance, James Harden is found listed as a shooting guard, not a point guard.
So with that said, let’s continue this celebration with the best small forwards in Houston Rockets History. Surprisingly, the SF spot has been surprisingly dry throughout the years compared to other positions. That does mean that there aren’t some all-time greats to discuss, though. Let’s get started.
Next: Rodney McCray
Years with Rockets: 1983-1988
Stats: 12.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game
One of the greatest Houston Rockets of all time is often one of the most forgotten. Originally drafted with the third overall pick in 1983, Rodney McCray solidified his status as one of the best front court players to ever step on Houston’s hardwood floor.
Although a solid scorer, McCray’s biggest contribution came on the defensive end.
In five seasons, McCray racked up two All-Defensive team honors, including playing a significant role during the Rockets memorable Finals run in 1986.
In the six-game series against the Boston Celtics, McCray became Houston’s most efficient player averaging 15.3 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1.2 steals in a losing effort.
According to basketball-reference.com, McCray is ranked eighth on the Rockets all-time offensive rebounds with 955 boards. He also ended his career with the seventh-highest field goal percentage in Rockets history, shooting 52.1%.
With the reputation as a hardworking and reliable player on both ends of the floor, put Rodney McCray among some of the best players in Rockets history.
Years with Rockets: 1993-1998
Stats: 9.8 points and 2.7 rebounds per game
Today, he can be found as an assistant coach for the Orlando Magic, but during the mid-90s, Mario Elie was a sharp-shooting swingman on both Houston Rockets championship teams. So much so that Elie became one of the greatest shooters in franchise history.
During his five-year run in Houston, Elie shot an incredible 56.2% 2-point field goal percentage, which is the fourth-highest percentage of any Houston Rockets player. He also has the second-highest true shooting percentage at 61.4% in franchise history.
With the nickname Super Mario, Elie made his mark in Houston producing some of the Rockets most memorable clutch performances.
Elie’s most memorable performance came in Game 7 of the 1995 Western Conference Semifinals. With less than 10 seconds remaining, Elie stuck a dagger right through the hearts of the Phoenix Suns with a deadly three to seal the win.
As he turned to the Suns’ bench, Elie blew a kissing gesture shortly after the shot was made. 22-years later, this shot is remembered as The Kiss of Death by Rockets fans.
Years with Rockets: 2007-2011
Stats: 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game
As a Rockets fanatic during the mid-2000s, Shane Battier is one of my favorite players that ever played in Houston. Although he won two championships as a member of the Miami Heat, Battier spent the prime of his career as a member of the Houston Rockets.
Acquired in a drafted day deal for Rudy Gay, Batter became one of the best defensive-minded players in team history. Battier is currently rank eighth in franchise history with 351 blocks, as well as fifth in defensive plus/minus at +2.5 per game.
Although a great defender, his ability to score has gone underappreciated.
One of the greatest shooters in franchise history, Battier sits at fifth in 3-pointers made with 576. He also possesses the sixth-highest offensive rating, averaged at 116.6 per game.
A relentless and hard-nosed on both ends, Battier will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Rockets fans.
Years with Rockets: 1992-1996
Stats: 10.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game
Originally drafted with the 11th overall pick out of Alabama, Horry was an athletic swingman who played as a key member in Houston’s back-to-back titles.
Although he would build a reputation as a high-volume shooter, Horry’s defense is what made him one of Houston’s best athletes.
Despite only playing five years in Houston, Horry ranks ninth in franchise history for total blocks with 343, and also holds the tenth-highest steal per game average with 1.4 SPG.
In Game 2 of the 1995 Finals against the Orlando Magic, Horry set an NBA Finals record with seven steals. While leading the Rockets to an 117-106 win, Horry also recorded 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Although he may not be remembered as a Rocket, one cannot deny Robert Horry’s impact in Houston.
Years with Rockets: 1970-1981
Stats: 17.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game
Although an incident may have altered his career, Rudy Tomjanovich is one of the most decorated players in Rockets history.
Originally drafted with the second overall pick by the San Diego Rockets in 1970, Rudy T. played his entire 11-year career with the Rockets. He is also recognized as the greatest coach in franchise history. He is one of five players to have their number retired by the organization, and may have a spot in the Hall of Fame this summer.
During his playing days in Houston, Tomjanovich’s best season came during the 1973-74 season. He averaged 24.5 points and nine rebounds while shooting 53.6% from the field, making him one of the greatest scorers in franchise history.
This five-time All-Star was reliable during his playing days, and appeared in the third most games played by a Rocket with 768. He is also third in franchise history in field goals made with 5,630 and eighth in made free throws with 2,086.
While he may be the most winning coach in franchise history, Rudy Tomjanovich is also the greatest small forward to ever play for the Houston Rockets.
Stay tuned as we go through our Top 5 Lists for each position in Rockets history. Agree/disagree? Leave a comment with your opinion or let us know on Twitter at @SpaceCity_Scoop!