Houston Rockets All-Time Dream Team

Eric EdelmanCorrespondent IMarch 17, 2013

Houston Rockets All-Time Dream Team

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    What if I were to ask you to build a dream team composed of nothing but the greatest talents to ever wear a Houston Rockets uniform?

    Well, it would be quite a list, and it would include some of the most under-appreciated stars to ever play in the league. There are as many unfulfilled dreams on this list as there are great accomplishments.

    From dazzling scorers to defensive stalwarts—and yes, most of us know about the man who was a master at both—it is a list of varying talents and attitudes.

    There were those whose legacies were cut short by chronic injuries, and there were those whose accomplishments are legendary. 

    It is a list that is as frustrating as it is at times impressive, and no matter what they did or didn't achieve, the all-time Rockets list is still one that deserves our recognition.

12. Sam Cassell

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    Everybody from Charles Barkley to Cassidy has made mention of Sam Cassell's "distinctive" facial features, but unfortunately, nobody seems to make mention of his tremendous game.

    Sam was a wily scorer, and there is no question he was exactly the type of guy you would want handling the ball in key situations. Gritty and dependable, he also exuded supreme confidence when called upon to make a play.

    Despite never starting a single game, Sam's total of 14 points and 5 assists off the bench in 1995-96 is solid work.

    Calling him a legend is definitely hyperbole for Sam, but he was a fantastic player who never seems to get enough credit. When you build a dream team, you also want a solid off-the-bench option at point, and Sam was definitely that guy. 

11. Robert Horry

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    We love winners.

    In sports, we remember the victors, and sure, sometimes we remember who they beat. But when it comes down to it, the game's greatest winners are always remembered.

    When it comes to simply winning when it matters most, Rockets faithful won't forget about Robert Horry. Any dream team needs the glue guy—the utility player whose intangible grit and hustle has a bigger impact than his talent.

    Big Shot Rob earned two of his seven NBA championship rings with the Rockets, and it was due in large part to his timely sharpshooting and toughness. Horry holds the single-game Rockets record for three pointers made with 9 shots beyond the arc against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 1995-96 season.

    In his best individual year as a Rocket, Horry averaged 12 points, 6 boards 4 assists, and he tallied at least 1 block and 1 steal per game. 

    Is he the most talented player on this list? No, no way.

    However, when we want to build a Rockets dream team, we could certainly use one of the greatest role players in NBA history camped out beyond the arc to knock down yet another huge shot. 

10. Steve Francis

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    Every squad needs somebody with a mean streak.

    When it comes to streaky shooting and streaky behavior, Steve Francis is our man. While the Franchise is often remembered as an example of undisciplined and uncoachable talent, his incredible highlights are forever ingrained in the memories of those who watched him play. 

    He was incredibly talented and incredibly stubborn, but perhaps the latter of those qualities is what made him such a menacing scorer when he wanted to put the ball in the basket. 

    While he did average 3+ turnovers in several seasons in Houston, the Franchise did average an impressive line of 21 points, 7 boards and 6 assists in the 2001-02 season. 

    Few ever possessed the incredible athleticism that the Franchise, as a 6'3" guard, had back in his prime, and very few had the will of a scorer like he had. While he also represents the disappointments that many Rockets squads unfortunately had, he should still be recognized for his incredible individual talent. 

9. Ralph Sampson

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    Like a few on our dream team, Ralph Sampson represents tremendous talent and tremendous disappointment. 

    While he was an undoubtedly great player, his huge 7'4" frame made him prone to chronic injuries throughout his career. Like the great Wilt Chamberlain before him, Ralph was a guy who was pretty much an unfair matchup for most bigs who attempted to guard him.

    During his highest scoring season as a Rocket, Sampson averaged 22 points, 10 boards and 2 blocks per game, solid numbers from a big man. 

    He's also tied with Elvin Hayes for the Rockets single-game record of 13 blocks against Chicago Bulls. 

    His size, speed and agility as a seven-footer made him almost unguardable, but his pervasive injuries were bigger than any opponent he ever faced on the court.

    Like another Houston big man, we will remember Sampson for what could've been, but we won't forget how skilled he was either. 

8. Kenny Smith

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    Like Sam Cassell, Kenny Smith was an under-appreciated player.

    Smith was a deceptively good athlete despite his rangy build, and he also had a solid jumper from behind the arc. One of Kenny's most impressive career highlights was when he hit seven three-pointers in a single game in the NBA Finals, which at the time was an NBA record.

    He also holds the longest three point shooting streak in Rockets history when he made over 10 consecutive three-pointers during the 1990-91 season.

    In his highest scoring season as a Rocket, Smith averaged 17 points per game with 7 assists, but he is most remembered for his clutch shooting on the Rockets championship teams.

    Smith won two championships with the Rockets, and as a member of those two legendary squads, Smith deserves a lot of credit. He was a competent floor general, and he played big when it mattered most, one of the signs of a true winner.

    No Rockets list is complete without Kenny being a part of it.

7. Yao Ming

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    One of the most disappointing stories in NBA history is the physical breakdown of Yao Ming. Eerily similar to fellow Rocket Ralph Sampson's career, injuries led to his eventual retirement. 

    At 7'6", Yao's hookshots and jumpers in the post were virtually unblockable, and when he was healthy, he essentially commanded double-teams at will. 

    Paired with another Rockets great, on paper, the Rockets were routinely one of the favorites to come out of the Western Conference as champions.

    Unfortunately, it never panned out.

    The Gentle Giant was plagued by numerous foot ailments in the latter end of his career, and he eventually had to call it quits.

    Yao holds the distinction of having the best shooting game in Rockets history when he went a perfect 12-12 from the field against the Miami Heat, and he averaged over 19 points, 9 boards and 2 blocks during his career as a Rocket. 

    He was a kind-hearted player, and while he never won a championship, there's no question he was one of the greatest centers to ever wear a Rockets uniform. 

6. Tracy McGrady

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    Out of all of the players on our Rockets dream team, perhaps none are more frustrating than T-Mac.

    Tracy McGrady in his prime was nothing short of an offensive force. From the high elevation he'd get off of his jumper, his incredible dunks and pinpoint passing, Tracy was one of the league's best swingmen.

    Similar to some of his fellow Rockets greats, McGrady's body simply didn't cooperate with him. Back injuries and age took away a lot of his speed and athleticism, and it didn't help that Yao was often ailed by injuries of his own.

    McGrady's teams were always full of potential, but eerily similar to himself, they just never panned out all the way. Although he never won a championship, McGrady was above all else an incredibly entertaining player in his prime.

    In five seasons as Rocket, T-Mac put in solid work when healthy.

    In 2004-05, one of his premier years as a Rocket, McGrady had a line of 25 points, 6 boards and 6 assists, a stat line that really shows his versatility.

    There's no question he's one of the most multi-talented players the league has ever seen, let alone the Rockets.

5. Clyde Drexler

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    Clyde "The Glide" Drexler isn't just an all-time Rockets' legend; he is an all-time NBA legend.

    Clyde in many ways was an evolution of super-versatile forwards like Oscar Robertson—swift, well-rounded "big" guys who could handle the ball as well as smaller guards. 

    Drexler holds the single game Rockets record with 10 steals, and he averaged 22 points, 5 assists, 6 boards and 2 steals during his championship winning season. 

    For someone 6'7", Clyde was as graceful as a smaller guard, and after he made a name for himself as a Portland Trail Blazer, Clyde was as equally legendary on the Rockets. 

    His stellar play throughout his career earned him 10 All-Star appearances, but what really put a nice cap on his career was his championship victory with the Rockets in 1995.

    After finishing his career in 1998, the Trail Blazers and Rockets alike retired his jersey in honor of his greatness. 

    Not only was he an exceptional player, but he was a high-character guy as well. While every team needs some toughness, every team could use a guy like Clyde to anchor it as well. 

4. Elvin Hayes

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    Another throwback Rockets great, Elvin Hayes was a force on both sides of the court.

    He had a reputation as a fearsome shot-blocker, and he had a beautiful fadeaway jumper reminiscent of contemporary offensive power forwards like Dirk Nowitzki.

    While numbers don't always tell the tale, for Elvin they most certainly do—as a rookie, he averaged nearly 30 points per game, and as his career progressed, he also garnered a reputation for being a nasty defender and rebounder.

    In just his second year, Hayes averaged around 28 points with 17 boards per game—phenomenal numbers considering his short time in the league. 

    Hayes tallied the most minutes in a single season by a Rocket with 3,695 way back during the 1968-69 season, and he also has the most field goals made in a single season with 948. 

    Hayes may go unnoticed by a lot of casual NBA fans, but his legacy is certainly remembered by Rocket diehards. 

3. Moses Malone

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    In his prime, Moses Malone was a beast by all accounts.

    He has the all-time Rockets record for rebounds in a game with 37 boards against the Jazz in 1979, and he also holds the Rockets single-season records for points and rebounds with 2,520 and 1,444 respectively.

    He also holds another dubious honor, the all-time Rockets' single season record for turnovers with 326, but considering he was relied upon to do a lot, it helps provide some context for that total. 

    He was a bruising, physical rebounder whose competent defense earned him two All-Defensive team selections during his career. 

    While detractors say Malone's defensive reputation was inflated because he was more of a help defender, it's hard to argue with his 9,435 blocks, the 16th highest total in NBA history. 

    If we were to assemble a dream team of NBA big men, there's no question Moses would be among the upper echelon, and of course, he's a member of our all-Rockets dream team.

    Malone's career line of 20 points, 12 boards and 1 block per game is excellent, and to this day, he is a prototype for how a physical, rebounding center is supposed to play. 

2. Calvin Murphy

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    Yep, you can add another Rockets point guard to the dream team, but not just any point guard, the greatest point guard the Rockets have ever had.

    Murphy leads the Rockets in all-time assists with 4,402, and he also holds the Rockets single-season record for free throw percentage with 95%.

    Calvin Murphy epitomized the underdog—he was a shade under 5'10", but he played like he was 10-feet tall.

    He played the game with tenacity, fearlessness and, above all else, a winning attitude. He was a gritty defender and highly cerebral player, but Cal also had a reputation for being an efficient scorer.

    In fact, Murphy is the Rockets second all-time highest scoring leader with 17,949 points, and the fact he was under six feet is impressive.

    Despite only one career All-Star game, Murphy's career line of 18 points, 4 assists and 1 steal is solid output. 

    Undersized players have always been fan favorites, and Calvin Murphy is no different, especially if you're a Rockets fan.

1. Hakeem Olajuwon

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    The man who puts the "Dream" in dream team, Hakeem Olajuwon's nickname alone evokes countless classic moments.

    Crushing blocks, technically immaculate scoring maneuvers, graceful agility—you name it, he had it in his game.

    He is the all-time Houston Rockets scoring champ with 26,511, the all-time leader in blocks with 3,740 and he he's the franchise leader in rebounds with 13,381.

    Hakeem is unquestionably the greatest Rocket of all time, and there are even some out there who would go as far as to say he's the greatest center in NBA history.

    While that's for another discussion, we can most certainly say with confidence that among the all-time Rockets' greats, Hakeem would headline the list. 

    He played the game at the highest level on both ends of the floor, and he did it with humble confidence. To this day, current NBA greats that include the likes of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant have worked out with him to improve their post games. 

    While he wasn't the first to have cunning moves on the block, he took those moves and carved his own playing style for the center position.

    He was a frustrating cover, but all of those who played him couldn't help but respect him for his greatness and top-tier sportsmanship.

    Whether it's his dazzling scoring moves or back-to-back championship winning seasons, "The Dream" continues to inspire Rockets players and fans alike. As the greatest all-time Rocket, Hakeem has set the bar pretty high.