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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12. Bingo Smith

The Cleveland Cavaliers legend was drafted sixth overall by the San Diego Rockets in 1969. They were fresh off their first playoff appearance and had a young talented roster. Smith struggled to get minutes on the wing as a rookie. It turned out to be his only season with the Rockets as the Cavs took him in the expansion draft in 1970.

Smith immediately became a key role player in Cleveland. He spent a decade with the Cavaliers where he averaged 13.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 0.8 steals in 26.7 minutes per game. Bingo played his final 70 games with the San Diego Clippers before retiring in 1980.

The Rockets had Elvin Hayes and Stu Lantz leading their charge. There was no guarantee that Bingo Smith would have cracked their rotation and blossomed into a key contributor for a decade if he stayed. He was one of the best shooters of his era, but the 3-point line was not introduced into his final season. Smith’s jumper made him a fan-favorite in Cleveland and none of that would have happened if the Rockets kept him out of the 1970 expansion draft.

Keeping Smith would have helped the franchise have more early success. They made just one playoff appearance in their first seven years as Bingo was helping the Cavaliers get established. His number seven is retired in Cleveland and remains a franchise icon for the Cavs.