Sometimes, it is the moves you don’t make that prove to be the most valuable. And at other times, it’s the moves that don’t happen that are the ones that matter the most. In the Rockets’ case, this happened twice in franchise history. The first happened in 1994, where the Rockets were primed to make a run at their first title.
Sean Elliott’s failed physical voids trade to Rockets - 2/7/94
Rockets acquire: F Sean Elliott
Pistons acquire: F Robert Horry, F Matt Bullard, two future second-round picks
It’s unsure as to whether or not the Rockets would have done better or worse with or without Robert Horry during their 1994 championship run. Though Elliott was the better scorer, he was not as prominent of a rebounder as Horry was. Elliott could have fit in beautifully with the Rockets and might have even been a better fit than Big Shot Bob, or he could have been worse. The team’s chemistry would have changed, and maybe Elliott was not the right piece in the Rockets’ puzzle.
Nonetheless, Horry played a big role on both Clutch City championship teams, the first two of his seven rings. And the Rockets are not hurt that the Elliott trade never worked out for them. Elliott was sent back to the Spurs the following offseason and became a huge part of their 1999 championship team with Tim Duncan and David Robinson.
Do the Rockets win the 1994 and 1995 NBA Finals with Sean Elliott instead of Robert Horry?
This poll is closed
Yes, they win both. Elliott makes the team better.
Yes, but only one championship.
No, Horry was too valuable to that team.
Ironically, a similar situation occurred 17 years later when the Rockets became the third team involved in what would have been one of the most seismic deals in NBA history.
Chris Paul to Lakers, Pau Gasol to Rockets in 3-team blockbuster - 12/8/11
Lakers receive: G Chris Paul
Rockets receive: C Pau Gasol
Hornets receive: F Lamar Odom, G Kevin Martin, F Luis Scola, G Goran Dragic, two future draft picks
Daryl Morey and the Rockets were desperate for a star to build around, even if it was a 31-year old, past his prime Pau Gasol. The team was willing to trade arguably the team’s three best players to get Gasol, who averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds per game the previous season with the Lakers.
However, in a bizarre twist of fate, the deal was nixed by the NBA the following day and it cleared the path for future Rocket Chris Paul to begin his tenure with the Los Angeles Clippers.
So many things cannot happen if this trade goes through. If CP3 becomes a Laker, it’s arguable that he stays there to this day and keeps the Lakers relevant past the Kobe years. It’s also very likely that Dwight Howard is not traded there, which hurts his chances of signing in Houston in 2013.
But most of all, one of the smaller details of the nixed trade, Kevin Martin, cannot be traded to Oklahoma City in exchange for James Harden ten months later. And without Harden, Howard and Paul definitely don’t come to Houston and the Rockets have to look elsewhere for that star power.
I think it’s safe to say that this trade would have altered much of the recent history of not just the Rockets but the league itself, and the Rockets definitely dodged a bullet on this one.