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Top 10 Rockets “Could Have Beens” - #10: Luther Head

The 2005 first-round pick ends up at #10.

Houston Rockets v Dallas Mavericks

With the 24th pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, the Rockets selected Luther Head, a guard out of Illinois.

Head’s senior year with the Illini was an incredible one. The Illini made it all the way to the NCAA Championship behind the leadership of Head and future All-Star Deron Williams. The team would eventually fall to the North Carolina Tar Heels but Head’s draft stock rose throughout the season.

Meanwhile, for the Rockets, the team was coming off of a rough Game 7 defeat to the Dallas Mavericks in the first round after a promising 51-31 campaign in the first season of the Tracy McGrady era.

Head was a young depth addition for a team that needed that surge off the bench. He would often play behind Tracy McGrady and get a good chunk of minutes. In his rookie season, he averaged 8.8 points per game en route to a spot on the All-Rookie Second Team.

In his second season, Head was dynamite from long distance. In his best season of his NBA Career, Head averaged 10.9 points per game in just 27 minutes per contest. He shot 44.1 percent from beyond. Yes, you read that right. To put that in perspective, no Rocket shot better than 39 percent this season. He would have fit like a glove on this past Rockets team.

In 2007, the Rockets returned to the playoffs after missing the postseason the previous year. However, the team suffered the same fate as it did in ‘05: a seven-game series loss in the first round. Despite leading 2-0 and 3-2 in the series, the 55-win Rockets failed to get the job done.

Head’s success in the first two years with the team set a very high bar, and as he entered year three, just as it appeared he was about to break through as a dynamic player, injuries came about. He missed nine games in 2007-08, the streak year, and only saw 17 minutes per game. And in the following year, Head played 22 games before he was waived by the team. His time with the Rockets was over in a blink of an eye.

After the team waived him, Head bounced around the league, playing for the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, and Sacramento Kings. By 2011, four seasons after he was fourth in the league in 3-point percentage, Head was out of the NBA.

Since then, he has trotted the globe playing in Spain, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and most recently, Canada, where he was a member of the Cape Breton Highlanders.

When you look at Head’s prime, he looks like a player who would have thrived in today’s NBA. Perhaps he was drafted in the NBA a decade too early. Head could have been great and matched the production he had in college, but his style of play did not match the era of the NBA he played in, and injuries ultimately got the better of him.