Houston Rockets greatest draft picks #5: Elvin Hayes
The fifth greatest draft pick in Rockets’ history came in only their second-ever draft. After the franchise set the then NBA record for losses with 67 in their inaugural season they won a coin flip with the Baltimore Bullets to secure the first overall pick of the 1968 draft and selected Elvin Hayes.
Hayes made an immediate impact for the Rockets as they improved to 37 wins and made it to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The playoff appearance was the only time the franchise would make the playoffs while in San Diego.
Hayes’ statistical output with the Rockets was incredible and showed why he was worthy of the number one overall pick. He led the league in scoring his rookie season with 28.4 points per game and averaged 27.4 points and 16.3 rebounds per game over his initial four-year run with the Rockets.
Hayes’ brief time in his prime with the Rockets is what ultimately pushes him down the list. Following the franchise’s move to Houston, the Rockets’ hired Tex Winter to be their head coach and there was instant friction between the two.
Winter is today known as the most famous proponent of the triangle offense but his offensive principles predicated on movement and sharing the ball did not sit well with the prolific Hayes. One season in Texas and with Tex was enough for Hayes and he demanded a trade following the season which brought an end to his first stint with the Rockets.
Hayes would rejoin the Rockets at the very end of his career but he wasn’t nearly the same player. However, in the seven seasons with the Rockets Hayes averaged 20.6 points and 12.2 rebounds per game.
Whenever you draft a Hall of Famer you’ve done something right. Hayes would be much higher on this list if he had spent his entire career with the franchise, but alas, he and the offensive architect of Phil Jackson’s first nine title teams simply couldn’t see eye to eye.
Next: Pick #4