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Although this year's NBA draft was considered by many to be the worst in a decade, picking high still has its advantages. Jim Dalton, a director with the consulting firm of Putnam, Hayes & Bartlett Inc., has done a study that indicates the best rookies actually do come from the top of the draft.

Dalton studied the NBA's All-Rookie teams from 1963 to 1989 and found, not surprisingly, that almost half the players were among the top five draft picks. Another 23 percent were picked Nos. 6-10. In other words, almost 75 percent of the top NBA rookies since 1963 were selected in the first 10 draft picks.Says Dalton, "If I were a general manager in the NBA, I would require very high value in return for surrendering one of the top 10 picks in the NBA draft."

There are, predictably, some interesting exceptions. Milwaukee's Bob Dandrdge went No. 45 in 1969 and still made the All-Rookie squad that year. Portland's Lloyd Neal was picked 31st in 1972. But only eight percent of those drafted 21st or below have made the All-Rookie team.

Not surprisingly, the No. 1 draft pick has made the All-Rookie team 17 of the past 27 years.

Among those who were drafted No. 1 that didn't make the all-rookie team were the ever-popular LaRue Martin (1972), Doug Collins (1973), Bill Walton (1974, he played in only 35 games that year), David Thompson (1975), Kent Benson (1977) and Mark Aguirre (1981).


WHAT'S IN A NAME?: With the addition of guard Jeff Malone to the Jazz roster last month, the conversation quickly came around to what they should call the newest Malone. Since Utah already has the Mailman, what about Jeff?

He suggested himself that they might call him "The Mailbox." But, according to team President Frank Layden, there's only one way to address Jeff Malone. "We'll call him Jeff `Special Delivery' Malone," said Layden.

Speaking of Jeff Malone, one reason the Jazz liked the deal that brought him to Utah is that next July 1 he becomes a restricted free agent. That means that when his contract expires, the Jazz can match any offer another team makes.

However, with the NBA's new salary cap going up August 1, Malone could have his contract reworked before then.


BUT THERE`S ONLY ONE MAILMAN . . .: Golden State, hoping to get a muscular power forward in the June 27 NBA Draft, selected Xavier's Tyrone Hill. Shortly after, he was asked if he would like to become a power forward along the lines of Karl Malone.

"I don't think no one'll be like Karl Malone," Hill said. "I don't want to be compared with no one. I want to play like Tyrone and be labeled that I play like Tyrone Hill."


GENIUS DEPT.: While the Utah Jazz definitely brought up their cumulative I.Q. with the selection of Dartmouth center/student Walter Palmer, the Miami Heat went one better. The Heat selected Georgia forward Alec Kessler. Besides scoring 21 points a game, he carried a 3.91 GPA in microbiology and has been accepted to medical school at Vanderbilt, Emory, Duke and Johns Hopkins.


COMFORT ZONE: Now that the Jazz have taken care of the NBA Draft and the trade that brought them Jeff Malone, Director of Player Personnel Scott Layden says the team is in no hurry to make further changes. Despite rumors of the Jazz going after Denver's Alex English or Dallas' Sam Perkins, the likelihood of signing a free agent appears slim.

"I think with the trade we made, we feel good about the team. I think there are a lot of ifs in the market and, well, I think that we did our thing," said Layden.


TOUGH ENOUGH: Who are the toughest people in the league to play against? If you ask the Clippers' Winston Garland, one of them is Utah's John Stockton.

In a recent newspaper interview, Garland rated Stockton among his five toughest foes. He ranked Phoneix's Kevin Johnson No. 1, followed by Stockton, Detroit's Isiah Thomas, Denver's Michael Adams and New York's Maurice Cheeks.

In the "Toughest Defenders" category, Washington's Darrell Walker rated first, followed by Stockton, Cheeks, Portland's Terry Porter and New Jersey's Lester Conner.

Stockton came in first in the "Best Competitors" category, followed by L.A.'s Magic Johnson, Golden State's Chris Mullin, New York's Pat Ewing and Houston's Akeem Olajuwon.

In the "Best Coaches" category, Garland shows he doesn't hold grudges, naming his former coach, Golden State's Don Nelson, as the best in the league.