On this day: Houston Rockets draft a star in James Silas, then waive him

James Silas (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
James Silas (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

Every franchise has their regrets, and one of those for the Houston Rockets was what they did after drafting James Silas on this day in the 1972 NBA Draft.

From Robert Horry to Sam Cassell to Yao Ming, the Houston Rockets have had success drafting in different parts of the NBA Draft. In the 1972 draft, they took James Silas with the 70th overall pick, waiving him before the season even began. As history proved, that turned out to be a mistake.

Silas played his college basketball at a small school in Nacogdoches, TX called Stephen F. Austin State University. Throughout his career he was named NAIA All-American twice, leading them to a 29-1 record as a senior. Still, Silas fell all the way to 70th in that draft class, finally being taken by Houston in the fifth round.

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With guards like Jimmy Walker and Calvin Murphy already on the roster for the upcoming season, the Rockets decided to waive James before he even saw the floor.

Meanwhile, they kept their second-round pick Eric McWilliams, who finished his career after just 44 games played, averaging two points and 1.4 rebounds per game.

After hearing of Silas being available, the Dallas Chaparrals took a chance on the 6-1 guard, and the move paid off.

Silas averaged 13.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists in his rookie season, making the ABA All-Rookie team.

As the Chaparrals became the San Antonio Spurs, Silas went on to be one of their greatest point guards ever, making the All-Star team twice, All-NBA First Team once and Second Team twice.

His number 13 would end up being the first number ever retired by the Spurs, a list that now includes names like David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

Silas finished his 10-year career with averages of 16.1 points, 3.8 assists and 3.0 rebounds and is still in the top 10 in points, assists, free throws and games played in Spurs history.

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While their draft-related decision wasn’t among the worst in league history (Sam Bowie, anyone?), it’s safe to say the Rockets would like to take back their decision to let Silas walk 48 years ago.