The NBA draft belonged to the young, even more than usual.
It certainly didn’t belong to the Clippers.
The first five selections Wednesday night were players younger than 21, including four who left school after their sophomore years and one straight out of high school.
The Golden State Warriors made Joe Smith, a 6-foot-10 forward from Maryland with silky inside moves, the first pick. The Clippers followed with another forward, Antonio McDyess, a player largely unnoticed during his two years at Alabama until his strong postseason.
However, the Clippers later announced a trade, sending the rights to McDyess (and guard Randy Woods) to Denver, for forward Rodney Rogers and the rights to Oregon State’s Brent Barry, the Nuggets’ pick at No. 15 in the first round.
With NBA Commissioner David Stern announcing the selections for the first NBA draft held outside the United States, Philadelphia used the third choice to take North Carolina’s Jerry Stackhouse, a forward expected to play shooting guard for the 76ers.
The fourth selection belonged to Washington, which went for another sophomore Tar Heel--Rasheed Wallace, a 6-10 center-forward who shot 65% from the field.
Minnesota went fifth, producing the biggest question mark of the draft, Chicago high schooler Kevin Garnett. The rail-thin 6-10 forward is only the fourth high school player selected in the NBA draft.
McDyess, Stackhouse and Wallace are 20, and Smith will be 20 next month. Garnett is 19.
Not until the expansion Vancouver Grizzlies took Oklahoma State’s Bryant Reeves, the best true center of the draft, at No. 6 was a four-year player selected.
The NBA’s other new franchise, the Toronto Raptors, made Arizona point guard Damon Stoudamire a surprise seventh choice. The Raptors already had a point guard, former Chicago Bull B.J. Armstrong, from the expansion draft, but General Manager Isiah Thomas said Armstrong would be traded.
The selection of Stoudamire drew a mixed reaction from the crowd of 21,268 fans in the SkyDome.
Smith became the third sophomore selected No. 1 overall, after Magic Johnson in 1979 and Chris Webber in 1993. Smith also was the first No. 1 pick from Maryland since John Lucas, selected by Houston in 1976.
“When I got to Maryland, no one expected me to have as successful a season as I had,” said Smith, who was not heavily recruited out of high school. “I came out and surprised everybody, even myself.”
In Oakland Coliseum Arena, about 2,000 fans cheered wildly when Smith’s name was announced.
“You will love this guy,” new Warrior General Manager Dave Twardzik told the fans. “He’s a blue-collar worker, he’s going to do a lot of dirty work for us.”
Last year with the Terrapins, Smith averaged 20.8 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.9 blocks a game. For the Warriors, he fills a void up front left by the departure of Webber, top pick of the 1993 draft who was traded to Washington early last season after a dispute with former Golden State Coach Don Nelson.
“He’s a guy that has improved every year, we think there’s still a tremendous amount of growth to him,” Twardzik said. “He brings us size and mobility, he can defend and he can score. He has a great presence on the floor.”
Portland, who had traded with Detroit to get the eighth pick, took shooting guard Shawn Respert of Michigan State. New Jersey followed with UCLA forward Ed O’Bannon at No. 9, and Miami took Texas Christian power forward Kurt Thomas at No. 10.
The 11th pick, by Milwaukee, was Ohio’s Gary Trent, followed by Duke center Cherokee Parks, taken at No. 12 by Dallas.
Sacramento selected Arkansas forward Corliss Williamson 13th, and Boston chose Eric Williams of Providence with the 14th pick.
At No. 22, the Charlotte Hornets went for UCLA center George Zidek.
Smith said he wants to help improve Golden State’s defense. The Warriors gave up 111.1 points per game last season--the most in the NBA.
“I want to bring defense to it,” Smith said. “I heard they gave up a lot of points last year. I’m one of those type people that hates to be scored on.”
New Golden State Coach Rick Adelman said he is not concerned about Smith’s strength, saying the 6-foot-9 1/2, 220-pound forward will put on more muscle in the weight room and as he matures physically.
“There’s no concern about his size. He’s only 19. He’s very long, he’s got extremely long reach, so he’s going to play bigger,” Adelman said.
The coach said Smith is a natural power forward, but eventually could also play at small forward. Twardzik and Adelman were impressed with Smith’s outside touch during a predraft workout two weeks ago.
“If he did play some three, he could really hurt some people inside,” Adelman said.