The Houston Rockets have only had second-round draft picks in recent years, but they’ve missed out on some big first-round talent in the past.
Every team in the NBA is guilty of passing up guys who later became stars. It’s inevitable. Hall of Famers like Karl Malone and Kobe Bryant were 13th picks while the Spurs went even deeper to find Manu Ginobili with the 57th. The Houston Rockets certainly aren’t immune to post-draft regrets, as their last five selections aren’t currently on the roster anymore.
Of course, with the success they’ve had since James Harden joined the team, the Rockets haven’t had a first-round draft pick since 2015 when they used a pick acquired from New Orleans to select Sam Dekker 18th overall. It’s obviously much tougher to find gems in the second round of an NBA Draft.
Since 2016, the Rockets have selected no earlier than 37th overall, highlighted by Isaiah Hartenstein and Dillon Brooks in 2017 (who was sent to Memphis). The last five first-round picks Houston has made go back to 2012 when they drafted Jeremy Lamb with the 12th overall pick.
Starting with Lamb, let’s take a hindsight look at who the Rockets could’ve ended up with if they were able to foresee how certain players would turn out.
2012, 12th overall pick: Jeremy Lamb → Khris Middleton (pick from Milwaukee)
While his productivity has picked up in the last three seasons, Jeremy Lamb has always been a slightly above-average NBA player. Of course, considering the Rockets were able to use him in a trade to acquire the team’s franchise player for the next 8-plus seasons, I’m guessing they were ultimately happy with their decision.
After talks fell through between the Oklahoma City Thunder and James Harden regarding an extension, they opted to trade him, Daequan Cook, and Lazar Hayward for Lamb, Kevin Martin, and future draft picks.
Obviously, everything worked out for Houston in this case, but in the interest of what could have been, Khris Middleton was still on the board when the Rockets made their first 2012 selection. Selected 39th overall, it was the Detroit Pistons that finally took the 6-7 sharpshooter.
While he didn’t immediately shine, Middleton has become a reliable scoring option, averaging 19.7 points per game over the last three seasons. Khris has also made the All-Star game in his previous two seasons and has hardly missed any games throughout his career.
While Middleton would be a great consolation prize, the Rockets certainly made the right call with Lamb, considering who they got by trading him.