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How did Rockets’ previous franchise-altering draft picks fare their first season?

We take a look back at Houston’s high picks.

NBA: NBA-Draft Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets made a huge splash in last week's NBA draft when they not only selected Jalen Green with the second overall pick but secured another first-round pick at number 16 to go along with 23 and 24. As a result, the Rockets were able to draft the best player out of Europe, Alperen Sengun, if not the best, one of the best defenders in Usman Garuba, and Josh Christopher, one of the most dynamic players in this year's draft.

With all that being said, the headliner, of course, was the shooting guard from the G-League Ignite team Jalen Green. There was a debate on who the Rockets would select with the second pick early in the process. Factions begin to form on Social Media. You had the Mobley Mob and the Green Gang ( sorry, Suggs Sargents or Stans, not really sure on the name), but as the process went further, it became clearer the choice was going to be Green.

After one of the worst seasons in franchise history, Green has brought a level of excitement that was severely lacking last season for obvious reasons. The Rockets have not been in this situation a lot throughout the franchise's history. Up until last year, the Rockets had not missed the playoffs in almost a decade. Before that, you had the Yao and McGrady years, and who could forget Clutch City.

However, the 2021-2022 season will see the Rockets start with one of the youngest teams they have ever had, and it's led by Green, who they are hoping is their next superstar. So let's go back and take a look at the last three franchise-altering players the Rockets drafted at the top of the draft.

Yao Ming

The last time the Rockets had this high of a pick, they went with Yao Ming out of China. The buzz that surrounded Yao Ming is like nothing the NBA had ever seen. The Rockets were coming off one of the worst seasons in franchise history when they finished 28-54.

That was also the season right after the greatest player to ever wear a Rockets uniform, Hakeem Olajuwon, took his talents to (check notes) Toronto. The Rockets only had a 9.3 percent chance of landing the number one pick, and once they won the lottery, it was a no-brainer who the Rockets were going with.

Yao had many highlights the first year, including his first clash with, at the time, the best big man in the league Shaquille O’Neal. The buildup to that game rivaled a Game 7, and Yao did not disappoint, blocking O’Neal multiple times and finishing the game with a dunk to seal it off a Tracy McGrady assist.

The league had never seen a player of Yao’s size with the overall skills that he had. From his soft touch to his footwork around the basket. Yao would go on to finish the year averaging 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 50 percent from three-point range ( yes, I know on two attempts).

Hakeem Olajuwon

What better player to discuss in my first article for The Dream Shake than the G.O.A.T himself, Hakeem Olajuwon. The number one pick out of the University of Houston was drafted by the Rockets in 1984 to form the Twin Towers (we will get to the first part of the Twin Towers in a little bit)

After helping the Cougars to back-to-back Final Fours, the stars aligned, and the Rockets won the coin toss for a second straight year. Fun fact: teams were so upset because the Rockets won back-to-back years, the next year the NBA enacted the lottery for the first time.

Olajuwon picked up right where he left off in college. In his first game, he put up 24 points, and 9 rebounds versus the Dallas Mavericks in a Rockets win. It was just the beginning of things to come.

Olajuwon would average 20.6 points 11.9 rebounds and helped the Rockets improve from a record of 29-53 the previous season to 48-34. But, of course, we all know the rest, as Olajuwon would go down as the greatest player in Rockets history. Olajuwon was so dominant and transcendent that you never hear anyone say the Rockets made a mistake not drafting a certain player named Michael Jordan with the number one pick.

Ralph Sampson

It may not seem like it now, but at the time, Ralph Sampson, the first part of the Twin Towers, was one of the best players to ever lace them up in college. To show how dominant Sampson was before he even made it to the NBA, he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated twice. In addition, he won player of the year three times, which is unheard of, and the Rockets had the good fortune of having the number one pick in the 1983 draft.

Houston was coming off the first of what would be back-to-back bad seasons and, just like they would a year later, won the coin toss and selected the player of the year number one overall. Sampson would not disappoint, as he came into the league and dominated from day one. Sampson displayed a rare combination of speed and size that the NBA had never seen before his arrival.

Even though the Rockets would struggle record-wise that season, Sampson would win Rookie of The Year, averaging 21.0 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks a game.

Unfortunately, injuries would keep the Twin Towers and the Rockets from realizing the team's full potential, as Sampson would eventually get traded after numerous run-ins with Bill Fitch, the Rockets head coach at the time. It's no denying, though, the impact that Sampson had that year and years following, as he ushered in the beginning of versatile big men who could run the floor and play in the paint.

As you can see, the Houston Rockets have a long history of high draft picks from Sampson to Olajuwon and, of course, Yao. If Green can have the same impact that those three Hall of Fame players had, the Rockets will be well on their way to the top of the NBA sooner rather than later.