Trades are the one staple in NBA culture, or sports in general, that can leave you 100 percent happy or sad, in one direction or another. They can alter the course of a franchise with one single move, and in the case of the Houston Rockets, there are many to count.
Darren Yuvan and I crafted lists by starting out with anything that we felt deserved mentioning. From that list of 17 trades, we then narrowed it down to our Top 10. This list features trades from multiple eras of Rockets basketball and we hope that this list will bring nostalgia back to the lifetime fans and prompt younger fans to read some good ol’ Rockets history.
Before we get started with our list, here are the trades that just barely missed the cut:
Rockets acquire sharpshooter Mario Elie from Blazers - 8/3/93
Rockets acquire: F Mario Elie
Blazers acquire: 1995 2nd-round pick
The Rockets traded a 1995 second-round pick for bench scorer Mario Elie in the ‘93 offseason. Elie was a huge part of the Rockets’ two championship teams in his first two years with the Rockets and has possibly the most iconic moment of the franchise.
Fresh off his second 3-peat, Scottie Pippen heads to Houston - 1/18/99
Rockets acquire: F Scottie Pippen
Bulls acquire: F Roy Rogers, 2000 second-round pick
After Michael Jordan retired, the Bulls entered a rebuild and decided to send Scottie Pippen to the Rockets, desperately trying to keep their title window open. As soon as the 98-99 lockout ended, Pippen became a Rocket. The Rockets went 31-19, made the playoffs as the 5th seed, but lost to the Lakers in Round 1. Pippen would then be dealt to Portland for six players that had little impact in Houston.
Rockets trade up to draft #7 overall pick Eddie Griffin - 6/27/01
Rockets acquire: 7th overall pick F Eddie Griffin
Nets acquire: 13th overall pick F Richard Jefferson, 18th overall pick C Jason Collins, 23rd overall pick G Brandon Armstrong
In what is considered to be one of the biggest trade flops ever, the Rockets squandered three of the top 23 picks in the 2001 NBA Draft to move up six spots to select Eddie Griffin out of Seton Hall. Griffin was one of the flashiest players in the draft, only playing one season in college before making the NBA jump, a rarity at the time. The Nets got a good return for Griffin. Collins and Jefferson made immediate impacts as starters on the 2003 Finals team and had solid careers with the Nets. Overall, Collins enjoyed a 13-year career and Jefferson was still on an NBA roster this past season. Meanwhile, Griffin played two mediocre seasons in Houston before the Rockets cut him in December 2003. He missed the entire 03-04 season to go to rehab. Then, after three seasons with the Wolves, Griffin was tragically killed in a car crash during the 2007 offseason at the age of 25.
Rockets nab Shane Battier for Rudy Gay in draft night trade - 6/28/06
Rockets acquire: F Shane Battier
Grizzlies acquire: F Stromile Swift, 8th overall pick G Rudy Gay
Rockets fans were excited with the possibility of a high pick joining Yao Ming and T-Mac on draft night in 2006. However, their hopes were dashed quickly when the team traded its 8th overall pick and Stromile Swift to Memphis for 5-year NBA vet Shane Battier. Battier was a fan favorite in Memphis and quickly became the same in Houston. In 4 1⁄2 seasons with the Rockets, Battier averaged 8.8 points, but was a key contributor on defense on the most successful Rockets teams in that era in 2008 and 2009. While Gay was the better scorer, I think it’s safe to say both teams won this trade.
Rockets and Spurs swap role players - 7/12/07
Rockets acquire: F Jackie Butler, F Luis Scola
Spurs acquire: G Vassilis Spanoulis, 2009 second-round pick
In what seemed like a small trade at the time, the Rockets did not know that they had hit the jackpot. Scola had been stashed by the Spurs for five years before he was dealt to the Rockets in exchange for Greek sharpshooter Vassilis Spanoulis. The Greek guard went back to Panathinaikos after becoming a Spur but the Rockets employed Scola for five seasons in which he played all but eight games. Scola quickly became a fan favorite and averaged 14.5 points per game in his five years. Scola would then go on to become an NBA journeyman, but now, ironically, both main pieces of the trade are still playing overseas in their late 30’s, Spanoulis in Greece and Scola in China.
Ron Artest becomes a Houston Rocket - 8/14/08
Rockets acquire: F Ron Artest, G Sean Singletary, F Patrick Ewing Jr.
Kings acquire: F Donte Greene, G Bobby Jackson, 2009 first-round pick
It will be 10 years ago tomorrow since Ron Artest was traded to the Rockets. At this point in his career, Artest, 29, had seemed to somewhat shed off his ‘Malice at the Palace’ incident and tried to re-establish himself as a productive player in the NBA. I think Houston was a stop he needed. In his lone season with the Rockets, Artest averaged 17.1 points per game and brought Houston one game away from the Conference Finals. This trade did not crack the Top 10 simply because he only played one season, but it was a good one nonetheless that brought his career back on track in a sense.
Rockets ship out Tracy McGrady to Knicks, acquire Kevin Martin from Kings - 2/19/10
Rockets acquire: G Kevin Martin, G Hilton Armstrong, F Jordan Hill, F Jared Jeffries
Knicks acquire: G Tracy McGrady, G Sergio Rodriguez
Kings acquire: F Carl Landry, C Joey Dorsey, G Larry Hughes
In this three-team trade right before the 2010 Trade Deadline, the Rockets said farewell to former scoring champion Tracy McGrady and brought sharpshooter Kevin Martin to Houston. Martin enjoyed 2 1⁄2 successful seasons as a Rocket, averaging 21.3 points per game and eventually became the centerpiece of a deal you will likely see on this list.