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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2. Elvin Hayes

Hayes joined the Rockets in their second season, and he immediately led the league in scoring. The 6’9 forward also lifted them to a 22-win improvement and their first playoff appearance. He was a dominant rebounder and scorer, but the Rockets failed to reach the playoffs for three straight years. They moved from San Diego to Houston in 1971, and Hayes made his fourth straight All-Star appearance, but it would be his final year with the Rockets.

The 6’9 forward clashed with head coach Tex Winter and was ultimately traded in 1972 for Jack Marin, who was an All-Star in 1973. Martin lasted just 20 months in Houston, but Hayes made eight more All-Star appearances.

The all-time great continued to be an elite scorer and rebounder, and he helped the Washington Bullets win the championship in 1978. They also reached the NBA Finals in 1979.

Elvin Hayes returned to the Houston Rockets in 1981 and played his final three seasons with his first team. He was past his prime, but he had two more productive seasons with the Rockets.

Hayes made the NBA’s 75th-anniversary team and was one of the best forwards in league history. The Rockets missed the majority of his prime, and they should have done more to keep their star happy in the early 1970s.