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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11. Johnny Green

A throwback to another original Rocket. Green was already an elite forward before joining the expansion franchise. He was the sixth overall pick in the 1959 draft, and it did not take Green long to become a force. He was a marquee scorer and rebounder as the 6’5 forward made three All-Star appearances in six and a half seasons with the New York Knicks.

Green was traded to the Baltimore Bullets in 1965 as part of a package for Walt Bellamy, which opened the door for the then-San Diego Rockets to select him in the 1967 expansion draft. He played just 42 games with the franchise before being traded to Philadelphia for a draft pick. Green averaged 13.9 points and 10.1 rebounds in 25.5 minutes per game, but the Rockets were not winning. The 34-year-old was sent to Philadelphia to join the title race.

Green spent two years with the 76ers, where they lost in the Eastern Conference semifinals both years. The 6’5 forward moved on to the Cincinnati Royals in 1969, and Green made his fourth All-Star appearance in 1971 as he led the league in field goal percentage for the second straight year.

The Houston Rockets had made the playoffs just once by the time Johnny Green retired in 1973, but it was in part because they let talent walk out the door. Green had multiple years of his prime left, but the Rockets did not hold on long enough to find out.