16 Players the Houston Rockets gave up on way too soon

Houston Rockets, Goran Dragic, Kyle Lowry
Houston Rockets, Goran Dragic, Kyle Lowry / Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
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6. Sam Cassell

Cassell was drafted 24th overall in 1993 by the Rockets, and he quickly cracked the rotation. Houston won the championship in each of his first two seasons as the 6’3 guard played off the bench behind Kenny Smith. Cassell broke out in year three, but the Rockets were swept by the Seattle SuperSonics in the second round of the playoffs. With Houston hoping to stay in title contention, they send Cassell and three other players to Phoenix for Charles Barkley.

Barkley remained an All-Star and helped the Rockets with Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler reach the Western Conference Finals. Sir Charles spent his final four seasons in Houston, but they did not advance beyond the first round of the playoffs after 1997.

Cassell quickly became a starter, but he bounced around the league. The 6’3 guard averaged 17.3 points, 6.5 assists, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.1 steals in 32.0 minutes per game over the next 12 seasons. He made his first All-Star appearance with the Timberwolves in 2004 and helped the Celtics win the championship in 2008.

Sam Cassell was never a superstar, but he was a quality role player for 15 years in the NBA. The Houston Rockets missed out on the best of those after trading him to Phoenix. They likely do not regret landing Charles Barkley, but the Rockets should have tried harder to keep Cassell out of the deal.