ROCKET SCIENCE

How a deep dive into the Rockets draft history tells an interesting story

Dekker didn't last long in Houston. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Simple question: when was the last time the Houston Rockets struck gold with their first-round pick in the NBA Draft? Heck, the last time the swap-happy Rockets even had a first-round pick was 2015 when, after spending a fortune on scouting, interviews, film study and exploring trade opportunities, they took Sam Dekker out of the University of Wisconsin with the 18th selection.

Like most Rockets draft choices, Dekker didn't last long in Houston – two years before being shipped with six other Rockets, a draft pick and money to the Clippers in exchange for Chris Paul.

Paul stayed in Houston two years before the Rockets dispatched him and two first-round picks to Oklahoma City for Russell Westbrook. Now Westbrook wants out of Houston after only one season. Is this any way to run a franchise? This is a Ponzi scheme in reverse. The Rockets keep getting less instead of more. Not one player on the Rockets' current roster was drafted by the Rockets.

These days former first-round pick Dekker is toiling in the Turkish league and recently offered to play with the Milwaukee Bucks "for free." Perhaps his most noteworthy accomplishment during his NBA career – J.R. Smith says Dekker is the only teammate he ever hated. To say that Dekker was a bust would be unfair to sculptors.

The Rockets are far from the only team that swings and misses on first-round draft picks, however. Being drafted in the first round sometimes gets you little more than a baseball hat photo op and ticket to a Euro league.

For example, let's run down the 2013 NBA Draft, when 14 teams passed on selecting a gangly young player from Greece with a tongue-twister last name. Whatever happened to Giannis Antetokounmpo, anyway? A whole bunch of players taken before the Greek Freak, let's just say, didn't become perennial All-Stars.

Cleveland's No. 1 overall draft selection was Anthony Bennett, a one-and-done 6-8 forward out of UNLV. Bennett drew equal, sometimes favorable, comparisons to former Runnin' Rebels star Larry Johnson.

Bennett's pro career resume looks like a script from Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? He stayed one year in Cleveland, before moving on to the Minnesota Timberwolves, then the Toronto Raptors, the Mississauga Raptors 905 in the G League, Long Island Nets in the G League, Brooklyn Nets, Fenerbahce Beko in the Turkish pro league, Northern Arizona Suns, Maine Red Claws and Agua Caliente Clippers in the G League. The Rockets actually signed Bennett in 2019 but waived him before he ever saw the floor here.

Anthony Bennett is still only 27 years old. He has a long way to go in his basketball career. And by long way, we mean distance, not years.

Here are more 2013 first-round notables who were drafted before the Bucks took Antetokounmpo and after the Rockets landed on Dekker.

Cody Zeller – No. 4 pick by the Charlotte Bobcats. Once known as the "Savior of Indiana Basketball, the still-active Zeller has played his entire career in Charlotte, no small feat in the NBA, but he's averaged a lackluster 8.6 and 6 rebounds per game.

Alex Len – No. 5 pick by the Phoenix Suns. He asked to wear uniform number 21 to honor Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. That's the only thing Len had in common with those NBA greats. His career scoring average is a paltry 8.3 per game.

The 7-footer from Ukraine has traveled from Phoenix to Atlanta to Sacramento to Toronto, where he still plays for the Raptors.

According to SB Nation's Jeff Siegel: "In the last five years, among 7-footers with at least 50 non-dunk attempts around the rim, Len ranked 30th out of 30 in 2018-19, 29th out of 32 in 2017-18, 34th out of 34 in 2016-17, 33rd out of 33 in 2015-16, and 25th out of 30 in 2014-15 in field goal percentage."

Nerlens Noel – No. 6 pick by the New Orleans Pelicans. NBA executives were itching to draft the next Anthony Davis. Noel's elite shot blocking ability and explosive leaps in just a few games (before a season-ending torn ACL) at Kentucky were enough to bait the Pels, who traded his rights immediately to the 76'ers. Noel has averaged 8 points during injury-plagued stints in Philadelphia, Dallas and OKC.

Kelly Olynyk – No. 13 pick by the Dallas Mavericks. To be fair, Olynyk has been a decent, serviceable bench player for the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat. Just remember, there was that Greek fellow available four spots later.

Shabazz Muhammad – No. 14 pick by the Utah Jazz. Shabazz was immediately packaged with Gorgui Dieng and sent to Minnesota in exchange for the No. 9 pick Trey Burke. During the 2015-16 season, he ranked 461st out of 462 players in ESPN's "Defensive Real Plus-Minus" stat. Only J.J. Barea was worse. After a brief stint with Minnesota, he signed with the Shanxi Brave Dragons, later with Shenzhen Aviators in China, where he continues to play.

Other first-round zonks: Lucas Nogueira (No. 16 by Boston), Shane Larkin (No. 18 by Atlanta), Sergey Vasiliyevich Karasev (No. 19 by Cleveland), Tony Snell (No. 20 by Chicago), Gorgui Dieng (No. 21 by Utah), Solomon Hill (No. 23 by Indiana), Reggie Bullock (No. 25 by the Clippers), Livio Jean-Charles (No. 28 by San Antonio), Archie Goodwin (No. 29 by OKC), Nemanja Nedovic (No. 30 by Phoenix).

Nedovic has a place in NBA history, though. He was the last selection announced by NBA commissioner David Stern.


Clearly the NBA Draft is full of more misses than hits, but there is a zero percent chance of drafting the next Antetokounmpo if don't have any picks.

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Houston gets the best of the Dodgers

Astros behind McCullers Jr. get shutout win in hostile Dodger Stadium

Yordan Alvarez added some big insurance runs against the Dodgers on Tuesday night. Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Having dropped two of three in San Francisco against the league record-leading Giants over the weekend, the Astros exited an off day on Monday and entered a hostile environment at Dodger Stadium in the first of a two-game series on Tuesday night. With some timely hits and an excellent start from their starter, Houston would grab the win.

Final Score: Astros 3, Dodgers 0

Astros' Record: 65-42, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (9-2)

Losing Pitcher: Walker Buehler (11-2)

Houston scores first as McCullers Jr. out-duels Buehler

After nearly turning the game's very first pitch around for a home run but instead going foul, Jose Altuve still started the game with a single in the top of the first. A double play would erase him, though, as the game remained scoreless into the top of the third. Martin Maldonado led that inning off with a double, moved to third on a wild pitch by Walker Buehler, then scored on an RBI double by Michael Brantley, putting Houston ahead 1-0.

Houston threatened again in the top of the fourth, getting two on with two outs, bringing up Martin Maldonado with an empty base, which the Dodgers would use by intentionally walking him to get to Lance McCullers Jr., who grounded out to strand all three runners. He made up for it on the mound, though, out-dueling Buehler, who finished six innings while allowing a run by getting into the seventh scoreless. He would get two outs into that frame while giving up a single and a walk, leaving two on base for Blake Taylor, who came in to get the third out. McCullers Jr.'s final line: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 9 K, 110 P.

Alvarez adds insurance as Astros take the opener in LA

Clinging to the one-run lead in the top of the eighth, Carlos Correa worked a one-out walk to bring Yordan Alvarez to the plate, who demolished a 415-foot two-run homer to add two big insurance runs, extending the lead to 3-0. Kendall Graveman took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the eighth and, despite allowing a leadoff single and hitting a batter, was able to finish a scoreless inning.

With Ryan Pressly on the paternity list, Houston handed the ball to Ryne Stanek to close things out in the bottom of the ninth. He would get the job done, earning the save by retiring the Dodgers in order, giving the Astros the win at the dismay of the fans in Los Angeles.

Up Next: This short series's second and final game will begin thirty minutes earlier on Wednesday at 8:40 PM Central. For the Dodgers, they will get the debut of Max Scherzer (8-4, 2.76 ERA), while Jake Odorizzi (4-5, 4.30 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros.

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