Most players who are selected as the second overall pick in the NBA draft are thrilled to be taken so high.

Steve Francis' reaction to being picked No. 2 in 1999 by the Vancouver Grizzlies wasn't exactly an overabundance of joy. Francis was less than thrilled to be selected by a Canadian team. After refusing to report to the Grizzlies, Francis became the key player in the largest trade in NBA history.

And the Houston Rockets couldn't be happier.

The Rockets acquired Francis as part of an 11-player, three-team trade with the Grizzlies and Orlando Magic in August. Days after the trade, Francis signed a multiyear contract with Houston. He's been lighting up the NBA since.

"Steve is a special player," Rockets head coach Rudy Tomjanovich told reporters at a press conference after the signing. "I don't think you see a guy with his kind of talent come around often. We feel blessed to have the opportunity to bring him here and make him a big part of our future."

Francis has lived up to his lofty billing in his rookie season. The former University of Maryland star has emerged as one of the front-runners for rookie of the year.

Many expected that Francis would be broken in slowly. At the time of the trade, the Rockets had three future Hall of Famers in Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon and Scottie Pippen. However, Pippen was traded before the start of the season, Barkley suffered a career-ending injury and Olajuwon has been plagued by injuries.

That helped open the door for Francis, a 6-foot-3 guard who has become a force for the Rockets despite his lack of experience. At the All-Star break, Francis led all rookies in scoring and assists. If basketball fans weren't aware of his prowess before the break, they certainly became aware of it on All-Star Saturday.

Francis starred in the rookie game, but the Slam Dunk Contest was where he really made his mark. Although the winner was Vince Carter, Francis wasn't far behind. Some even thought Francis would have scored higher had the judges not been so focused on Toronto's Carter. Despite finishing second, Francis showed off an array of dazzling dunks, not to mention a 40-inch vertical jump.

Although Francis cards are just beginning to make an impact on the hobby, it's very likely that they will be highly sought after. A 1999-00 Fleer #211 featuring Francis books for $30 in PSA Gem Mint 10 in the March issue of the Sportscard Market Report. His 1999-00 Hoops #177 and Victory #432 cards are valued at $40 each in Gem Mint 10. And a 1999-00 Topps #118 goes for $50 in the same condition. If Francis continues to play like he has during the first half of the season, those values could continue to go skyward.

"This is what I envisioned," Tomjanovich told reporters. "With his personality and his work ethic, the odds are pretty good he's going to succeed."

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Steve Francis
Sportscard Values

NM MT 8

MT 9
GEMMT 10
1999-2000 Fleer #211
4
8
30
1999-2000 Hoops #177
4
8
40
1999-2000 Topps #118
6
12
50
1999-2000 Upper Deck MVP #210
4
8
30
1999-2000 Victory #432
4
8
40

 

Source: March 2000 Sportscard Market Report