Founded in San Diego, the Rockets headed to Houston just four years after their creation and have been a staple of the NBA ever since. During that time, the Rockets have been at the forefront of some of the biggest moves in league history with Hall of Fame names coming and going over the years. What were the biggest moves for the multiple-time NBA Champions, though? Here are the five biggest roster moves in Houston Rockets history.
Drexler Comes Home
Clyde Drexler was a hometown hero for Houston after being part of Phi Slama Jama with Hakeem Olajuwon at the University of Houston. While Olajuwon played for the Rockets already, Drexler had spent his entire pro career in Portland by the 1994-95 season. About halfway through the season, the Rockets acquired Drexler (along with Tracy Murray) in exchange for Otis Thorpe and Marcelo Nicola.
Drexler ended up being the only player of real value in the trade, spending more than three seasons with the team. Drexler won the 1995 NBA Championship and a pair of All-Star Teams as he ended his career with the Rockets.
Charles Barkley established himself as one of the best players of his generations when he played for the 76ers and the Suns from 1984 to 1996. The Rockets, hoping to keep their dynasty going after Michael Jordan came out of retirement, acquired Barkley for Chucky Brown, Mark Bryant, Robert Horry, and Sam Cassell.
Unfortunately, Barkley (who was already 33 years old) didn’t pan out for Houston. He averaged just 16.5 points per game, though he continued his great rebounding. Barkley also missed significant time, leading to his final season being played in 1999-2000, retiring as a Rocket.
Steve Francis got off to a hot start in his career, hence the nickname “Stevie Franchise” after six seasons with the Rockets and three All-Star appearances. However, Francis would be dealt along with Kelvin Cato and Cuttino Mobley after the 2003-04 season so the Rockets could acquire Tracy McGrady from the Orlando Magic (along with Reece Gaines, Juwan Howard, and Tyronn Lue).
T-Mac was an established star by that time and continued his success in Houston. Over six seasons with the Rockets, McGrady put up 22.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. Meanwhile, Francis didn’t stick around long in Orlando, playing just a few more seasons in the league before knee injuries forced him to retire.
Harden Comes, Harden Goes
After not getting the contract extension that he wanted with the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Rockets set out to make James Harden the centerpiece of the franchise by acquiring him in a trade. Houston also received Daequan Cook, Cole Aldrich and Lazar Hayward while giving up Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and three draft picks.
While Harden didn’t bring a title to Houston, he was still a nin-time All-Star who put up 29.6 points per game in his long career with the Rockets. Harden was then involved in another massive trade in 2021, sending him to the Brooklyn Nets as part of a four team trade that saw the Rockets acquire Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs, and a bevy of draft picks.
Moses Parts From Buffalo
The ABA produced a lot of great talent for the NBA after the 1976 merger. One of the biggest names at the time was Moses Malone, who was acquired by the Buffalo Braves. However, Malone would play in just two games for the now-defunct Braves, sending him to the Rockets in exchange for a pair of first round picks that would end up being Wesley Cox and Micheal Ray Richardson.
Malone became a staple for the Rockets during his six seasons with the team, turning into a perennial All-Star. In 464 games with Houston, Malone averaged 24 points, 15 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game en route to being named to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team.