From the very beginning of his illustrious NBA journey, Sean Elliot had driven the comparisons with the Chicago Bulls superb forward – Scottie Pippen. From the very moment he was selected by the San Antonio Spurs as the 3rd overall pick in the 1989 NBA draft, the Ninja showed gradual but steady improvement.
As an exciting rookie, he showed great promise and was voted to the Second All-Rookie team. In his second season as a pro, he thrived to another level and was among the candidates for the Most Improved Player award. In his 4th year as a pro in the 1992-93 season, he became an All-Star.
The Spurs were aware that the post-Jordan era had officially begun in the summer of 1993, with high hopes of forming a formidable frontcourt duet au pair the Rockets Hakeem Olajuwon–Otis Thorpe. They decided to trade Elliot for the league’s best rebounder, the Pistons Dennis Rodman.
Interestingly, Elliott himself almost became a Rocket when he was put on the Pistons’ trading block midway through the 1993-94 season. Already set to be traded for forwards Robert Horry and Matt Bullard, Elliott eventually failed his physical and the trade didn’t take place.
An All-Star in the West didn’t quite blossom as a part of the struggling Detroit Pistons (20-62) rotation – his scoring average dropped by 5.1 points from 1992-93, a season in which he became an All-star.
However, Elliott occasionally proved that he could be quite useful facing Eastern conference teams.
Playing alongside perennial All-Stars Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars, rookies Lindsey Hunter and Allan Houston, Elliott occasionally displayed the skills which had made him an All-Star in the West.
Across the 1993-94 season, the Pistons went 0-5 when facing the 1993 NBA champions Chicago Bulls, with Elliott’s inspired play being one of the rare bright spots of that regular-season series.
Ever since his time with the Spurs, Elliott proved to be highly effective in the 1-on-1 duels with the Bulls forward Scottie Pippen. That particular season Pippen, who was voted the 1994 NBA All-Star MVP, was joined by the Croatian sensation Toni Kukoc. But neither one of the stellar forwards could contain Elliott – he could either stick the jumper over them or go around for a lay-up or a dunk.
In his only season with the Pistons, Elliott appeared (and started) in 73 games averaging 12.1ppg on 45.5% shooting from the field. He also averaged 3.6rpg and 2.7apg. Over the five games against the Chicago Bulls, Elliott posted 15.2 points, 4.4 boards and 3.4 assists per game.
After just one disappointing season in Detroit, Elliott was eventually traded back to the Spurs before the 1994-95 season, joining David Robinson and Dennis Rodman in the formidable frontcourt. The very next season, 1995-96, Elliott averaged 20.0ppg and earned his second and final All-Star berth.