5 players the Rockets passed on drafting who later became stars

LA Clippers Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LA Clippers Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
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Houston Rockets
Denver Nuggets Paul Millsap (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

3. Paul Millsap

During the 2006 NBA Draft, the Houston Rockets used their second-round pick on Steve Novak, who joined Dwyane Wade on the Marquette team that made it to the Final Four during his freshman year. Novak started each of the following three seasons in college, and improved his scoring numbers during each season.

Novak averaged 12.5 points as a sophomore, 13.5 points as a junior, and 17.5 points as a senior, while shooting 44 percent or better from downtown in each of his final two seasons. Although Novak is viewed as one of the greatest 3-point shooters in NBA history, he played sparingly in Houston.

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Over the course of Novak’s two seasons with the Houston Rockets, Novak only played 70 games, and never averaged more than eight minutes per game. Prior to the start of the 2008-09 season, the Rockets traded the Marquette sniper to the LA Clippers, which wasn’t a surprise considering how rarely the 6-10 forward was used in the Space City.

One of the other players that got drafted in the second round of that draft was Paul Millsap, who entered the draft after three collegiate seasons. During Millsap’s time at Louisiana Tech, he became the only player in NCAA history to lead the nation in rebounding for three consecutive seasons, which raises the question of how he even fell to the second round. All in all, Millsap averaged 18.6 points, 12.7 rebounds, and two blocks through three seasons at LA Tech.

The Utah Jazz selected Millsap with the 47th pick, which was 15 picks after the Rockets drafted Novak. Millsap’s major opportunity came during the 2008-09 season, due to an injury to Carlos Boozer. The 6-foot-7 power forward averaged 13.5 points and 8.6 rebounds during that season, which gave the Jazz confidence in letting Boozer enter the free agent class of 2010.

Boozer reached a deal with the Chicago Bulls worth $80 million, which made Millsap a full-time starter in Utah. During the following three seasons, Millsap averaged 16.2 points and 7.8 rebounds, which resulted in him getting signed by the Atlanta Hawks in 2013.

Millsap played four seasons in Atlanta and made the All-Star team during each of those seasons. All in all, the Louisiana native averaged 17.5 points and 8.3 rebounds during his time with the Hawks, which landed him a major payday with the Denver Nuggets in 2017.

Millsap’s current contract is paying him $90 million over three years, and he’s been a huge part of the turnaround with the Nuggets. Interestingly enough, the Nuggets would be facing off against the Houston Rockets if the playoffs were starting today.

Next: No. 2