Houston Rockets: nba FUTURES & BETTING ODDS
The San Diego Rockets began play in 1967 as part of the NBA’s western expansion. The team would struggle in their expansion season, going 17-65. In their second season the Rockets would make the playoffs behind star rookie Elvin Hayes, but they were knocked out of the playoffs by the Atlanta Hawks.
After missing the playoffs two seasons in a row, the financially strapped team was sold to a group from Texas which moved the team to Houston. If you bet on the Houston Rockets in their first three seasons you would have been disappointed as the team won 34 games, then 33, then 32. The Rockets would finally make the playoffs in the 1974-75 season, winning their first ever playoff series against the Knicks. Few fans bet on the Houston Rockets, with their 41-41 record, to upset the Celtics, and they were knocked out in five games.
The Houston Rockets odds would change in the 1970’s when they added John Lucas, plus Moses Malone from the ABA. The Rockets would make the conference finals for the first time, ultimately losing to the 76ers. After a disastrous 1977-78 season, the team traded Lucas for Rick Barry, and rode Moses Malone’s MVP season to a 47-35 record and a playoff appearance.
After being swept by the Celtics in the 1980 playoffs, the Rockets moved back to the western conference, and while few people bet on the Houston Rockets to contend for a title, the team with a 40-42 record got past the Lakers, Kings, and Spurs to make the NBA Finals. The Houston Rockets odds against the Celtics were long, and while they were competitive they fell in six games.
The Houston Rockets odds to repeat as conference champions were strong in 1981-82, but the only repeating happening was Moses Malong winning another MVP award, as the team lost its first rounds series to the Sonics.
The Rockets were unable to afford Malone’s salary and they traded him to Philadelphia for Caldwell Jones. While the team went 14-68, that earned them the first pick of the draft, where they selected Ralph Sampson out of Virginia. While Sampson won Rookie of the Year, a 29-53 record earned them another first overall pick, and they selected local college player Hakeem Olajuwon, who also played center.
In 1985-86, in their second season together Sampson and Olajuwon would lead the team to the NBA Finals, where they would once again fall to Boston in six games.
After winning their first playoff series in 1986-87, the Rockets would fall to the Sonics in the second round. From 1988 through 1991, had you bet on the Houston Rockets to lose in the first round of the playoffs, you would have won.
Sampson would retire in 1991 because of persistent knee injuries, and the Rockets, led by new coach, and former player, Rudy Tomjanovich, rebuilt around Olajuwon and a nucleus that included Robert Horry, Kenny Smith, Vernon Maxwell, Sam Cassell, and Mario Elie.
Hakeem would be named Defensive Player of the Year for the 1992-93 season but the team suffered a painful Game 7 defeat to the Sonics in the second round of the playoffs.
In 1993-94, some experts bet on the Houston Rockets to finally break through and win their first ever title. With Michael Jordan in retirement, Olajuwon was named league MVP, and the Houston Rockets odds to win it all looked great after they got past the Blazers, Suns, and Jazz to make their third NBA Finals appearance. In a tightly contested series, the Rockets won Games 6 and 7 after trailing 3-2, as Olajuwon was named Finals MVP.
The Houston Rockets odds were strong for a repeat title after they traded for star guard Clyde Drexler in midseason, and they edged the Jazz, Suns, and Spurs, to set up a matchup with Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway and the Orlando Magic. Olajuwon would win his second straight Finals MVP award as the team swept the young Magic.
The Houston Rockets odds of a threepeat seemed feasible but the team would get swept by the eventual Western conference champion Seattle. The Rockets would lose to the eventual conference champs in 1997 and 1998 as well, losing to the Utah Jazz both times.
While the Rockets experimented with aging legends Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen in the years after the titles, the team would fail to win another playoff series from 1997 through 2009.
During that stretch they won the NBA draft lottery, and used the first pick to select center Yao Ming out of China. Behind Yao, the team would return to the playoffs in 2004 and 2005 only to lose in the first round both times. More experts would bet on the Houston Rockets to once again contend when they traded for star scorer Tracy McGrady before the 2004-05 season, but the duo of Yao and T-Mac never won a playoff series together in Houston.
The Rockets decided to revamp their front office for the 2011-12 season, hiring a statistically inclined GM in Daryl Morey, who would turn the team into a consistent playoff performer, with the Rockets making eight consecutive postseasons during his tenure. Morey’s most significant move was trading for Oklahoma City guard James Harden during the 2012-12 season.
Harden would lead the Rockets to a 56-26 record during the 2014-15 season, and the team would make the Western finals before losing to the Warriors in five games, Though the Rockets were unable to make it out of the West, Harden kept improving eventually winning the NBA MVP award in 2017-18, and leading Houston to within one game of the NBA Finals, falling short to the Warriors once again.
Morey’s final huge move, before leaving the team after the 2019-20 season, after a loss to the Lakers in the playoff bubble. was to trade for Russell Westbrook, who teamed with Harden to form the highest scoring duo in NBA history. The team would trade Westbrook before the 2020-21 season for point guard John Wall and James Harden was dealt to Brooklyn early in the 2020-21 season, leaving Houston’s immediate future in flux.
Championships: 2 (1994, 1995)
11: Yao Ming
22: Clyde Drexler
23: Calvin Murphy
24: Moses Malone
34: Hakeem Olajuwon
45: Rudy Tomjanocivh