The Ten Greatest Players in Supersonics History - #10

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This series examines the (arguably) ten best players in Seattle Supersonics history. Read and discuss this and other worthy Sonic players below.

10. Dale Ellis. This 6’7 swingman was a two-time All-American at the University of Tennessee. Dale was drafted #9 overall by the Dallas Mavericks in the 1983 NBA Draft and spent the first three years of his career with the Mavs in their Dick Motta-led Derek Harper/Rolando Blackman/Mark Aguirre incarnation. (Coincidentally, future Sonics 3-point bomber Sam Perkins was also drafted by the Mavs the following year.) Right away Ellis showed prolific 3-point range and was a valuable backup for those Mavs teams at the SF spot behind Aguirre and Blackman.

So valuable, in fact, that on July 23, 1986 Ellis was traded to the Supersonics for Al Wood, a 6-6 swingman who was also a prodigious scorer. In Ellis’ first stint with the club from 1986-1990 he was matched with swingmen Xavier McDaniel and Tom Chambers to form a high-scoring trio. In those years Ellis averaged 25.4 points per game (PPG) and shot an eye-popping 50.4% from the field and 40.6% from 3 point range – impressive offensive numbers indeed. In those three years the Ellis/McDaniel/Chamber made the playoffs three consecutive years with their best showing in 1986-87 where they made it to the Western Conference Finals but were swept by the Showtime-era Lakers. During those three seasons the team consistently boasted a top 5 offense, but middling defensive ratings. Off-court problems with alcohol also plagued Ellis to the point where a change of scenery seemed mutually beneficial both to him and the team, and thus on February 15, 1991 Ellis was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for fellow sharpshooter Ricky Pierce, who became an offensive stalwart for the Sonics for the next couple of years.

But all was not over for Ellis in Seattle. In 1997 the 36-year-old Ellis was traded back to Seattle by the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Greg Graham, Steve Scheffler, and two second round draft picks that became Ryan Bowen and Francisco Elson. That Scheffler is probably the most memorable name in that trade to Sonics fans is indicative of where Ellis’ value had fallen at that point to the Nuggets despite him being a significant complementary piece to those Nugget teams, second in scoring only to LaPhonso Ellis and Antonio McDyess.

Ellis experienced something of a career rebirth with the Sonics in 1997, leading the league in 3 point percentage at 46.4% and scoring 11.8 PPG in a sixth man role. Ellis returned to the Sonics the following year where injuries curtailed his production, and he was subsequently included along with new Sonics draft pick Corey Maggette in a trade for Orlando Magic’s Horace Grant along with Sonics Don McLean, Billy Owens and two second round draft picks.

Ellis scored the eighth-most points in franchise history, is fourth overall in team 3-point percentage ahead of other brilliant long distance gunners such as Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. He is fifth overall in offensive win shares (OWS) behind only Gary Payton, Kevin Durant, Lewis, and Fred Brown.

Here's a 3-point shootout between Dale and Larry Bird at the 1988 All-Star Game:

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