10 Worst free agent signings in Rockets history
5. Charles Barkley
Following a sweep in the second round of the NBA playoffs in 1996, the Rockets added Hall of Fame forward Charles Barkley via trade. The Rockets needed to reload and Barkley was coming off a massive season, which saw him average 23.2 points and 11.6 rebounds per game.
Barkley would have another stellar season in 1996-97, averaging 19.2 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per contest, guiding the Rockets to 57 wins, good for the third seed in the Western Conference.
The Rockets faced the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference Finals, and trailed Utah 3-2 heading into Game 6, which was played in Houston. With the game tied 100-100 and two seconds remaining, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan drew up a play to get John Stockton the ball out of a screen, following a timeout, leaving Barkley as the primary defender.
Barkley didn't close out in time, leaving Stockton with enough space to let off a walk-off three, Damian Lillard style. The Barkley experiment never yielded a better opportunity for title contention than that year.
Although the Rockets technically traded for Barkley initially, they also gave Barkley two one-year deals in free agency, after his contract concluded in 1998, for a total of $10 million. In the first year of his new deal (1998-99), the Rockets were bounced in the first round and in his final year they missed the playoffs altogether.
In Barkley's current role as an analyst on TNT, he's seized every opportunity to take shots at the Rockets, criticizing their style of play under Harden, criticizing former GM Daryl Morey's use of analytics, and even claiming that the Rockets owe him $4 million.
Although Barkley had stellar statistical seasons in Houston, he was brought in to be the third and final piece to land more championships for Hakeem Olajuwon and Rudy Tomjanovich, which made the experiment a major disappointment.