2. Amar'e Stoudemire
The Rockets went big-game hunting in 2010, as the free agent class was one of the more loaded classes in recent memory. Between Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Joe Johnson, LeBron James, and Amar'e Stoudemire, there was an abundance of talent to go around.
The Rockets were coming off a 42-40 season, in which they were in the playoff race for stretches of the season but ultimately finished with the ninth seed in the West. The Rockets didn't have a star at the time, as they had just shipped away Tracy McGrady, while Yao Ming's career had largely come to an end due to injuries.
Yao missed the entire 2009-10 season and was only healthy enough to play in five games the following year. The Rockets made a full court press at Stoudemire, who was coming off a 23.1 point/8.9 rebound season that saw the Phoenix Suns reach the Western Conference Finals before ultimately losing to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers.
However, Stoudemire ultimately decided against joining the Rockets and landed with the New York Knicks instead, as he inked a five-year deal worth $100 million. Stoudemire later explained his rationale for spurning the Rockets.
“Free agency hit. Miami called me, Houston called me, New York called me. So I’m thinking ‘what would be the best scenario?’
I was like ‘you know what?’ I’ve got history with Mike D'Antoni, I was raised in New York, I was in New York for seven of my childhood years, I loved New York City. It was a great chance to not only turn the team around, but also build my brand off the court.”