Houston Rockets 75th Anniversary Team Rank 4 - 3
Tracy McGrady’s Houston Rockets’ tenure is one of the biggest what-ifs in franchise history. Coming off of back-to-back scoring titles the Rockets traded for McGrady in the summer of 2004. The hope in Houston was that titles would follow as the pair of McGrady and Yao Ming gave the Rockets one of the best one-two punches in the league.
The duo’s five-season run together was both incredibly successful and disappointing at the same time. They won over 50 games four out of five seasons but McGrady failed to win a single playoff series with the Rockets. Due to injuries and bad luck, the Rockets never went on the type of run commensurate of their two superstars’ talents.
While McGrady was incredibly productive with the Rockets, he averaged 22.7 points per game, a string of knee injuries rendered him a rotation player by age 30. At his peak, T-Mac was a nearly unstoppable offensive force. His combination of size, athleticism, passing vision and perimeter skills made him one of the faces of the league and the prototypical superstar wing.
In another timeline, McGrady and Yao stayed healthy, got some better bounces, and won Houston multiple championships. While T-Mac’s playoff success with Houston failed to live up to his lofty talents, he did give the world the most insane burst of scoring ever.
Moses Malone is one of the most underrated players in the history of the NBA. The guy won three MVPs during the peaks of Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Larry Bird, Julius Erving, and Magic Johnson’s careers. Malone won one championship with the Sixers in 1983, but his time with the Rockets featured one of the most superhuman playoff runs in league history.
In 1981, Malone led the 40-42 Rockets to the NBA Finals. They upset the Lakers in round one, vanquished the Spurs in seven games, and then beat the Kansas City Kings in five games to make it to the Finals, where they would lose to the 62-20 Celtics.
Across the 21 game playoff run, he averaged 26.8 points and 14.5 rebounds in 45.5 minutes per game. Malone literally put the team on his back and almost led the Rockets to the most unlikely Championship of the past 40 years.
Malone also won two league MVPs in six seasons with the Rockets and averaged 24 points and 15 rebounds per game. When he retired in 1995 he had the career record for most offensive rebounds. His combined NBA total of 6,731 offensive rebounds is 2,133 more than Robert Parish in second. The closest active player is Dwight Howard at 4,035. His nickname, Chairman of the board, was well deserved.
The brevity of his Rockets’ career compared to the next two on the list is what pushes him down. If Malone had been a life-long Rocket, he’d have a case for the greatest Rocket ever.