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NBA Mock Draft 2016: 1st-Round Predictions and Safest Prospects in Class

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2016

Buddy Hield is one of the safest players in the 2016 class.
Buddy Hield is one of the safest players in the 2016 class.Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Safety isn't something NBA fans come to expect from the draft.

Historically speaking, there are more failures in the first round than successes each year, which makes it look like something of a minefield for teams. It pushes the importance of the draft to the backseat in comparison to free agency.

A brief sampling of former No. 1 picks says this well enough, with either injuries (Greg Oden) or simple busting (Anthony Bennett) having derailed teams that were previously labeled as "winners" of a lottery.

Still, every class has its safe prospects who are sure to provide an impact at the next level. The question seems to be where these guys will fall, because it usually means they are already near their ceilings, while the draft is about upside.

Here's a look at an updated mock draft before examining the fate of the safest prospects.

2016 NBA Mock Draft

PickTeamPlayer
1.Philadelphia 76ersF Ben Simmons, LSU
2.Los Angeles LakersSF Brandon Ingram, Duke
3.Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn)PF Dragan Bender, Croatia
4.Phoenix SunsSG Jamal Murray, Kentucky
5.Minnesota TimberwolvesSF Jaylen Brown, California
6.New Orleans PelicansSG Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
7.Denver Nuggets (via New York)F Marquese Chriss, Washington
8.Sacramento KingsPG Kris Dunn, Providence
9.Toronto Raptors (via Denver)C Jakob Poeltl, Utah
10.Milwaukee BucksC Thon Maker, Orangeville Prep
11.Orlando MagicPF/C Deyonta Davis, Michigan State
12.Utah JazzF Henry Ellenson, Marquette
13.Phoenix Suns (via Washington)C Skal Labissiere, Kentucky
14.Chicago BullsG Tyler Ulis, Kentucky
15.Denver Nuggets (via Houston)SG Furkan Korkmaz, Turkey
16.Boston Celtics (via Dallas)SG Timothe Luwawu, France
17.Memphis GrizzliesPG Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame
18.Detroit PistonsSG Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
19.Denver Nuggets (via Portland)G Caris LeVert, Michigan
20.Indiana PacersPF Brice Johnson, North Carolina
21.Atlanta HawksC Diamond Stone, Maryland
22.Charlotte HornetsPF Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga
23.Boston CelticsF Paul Zipser, Germany
24.Philadelphia 76ers (via Miami)G Malik Beasley, Florida State
25.Los Angeles ClippersC Cheick Diallo, Kansas
26.Philadelphia 76ers (via Oklahoma City)F Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida
27.Toronto RaptorsF Taurean Prince, Baylor
28.Phoenix Suns (via Cleveland)C Damian Jones, Vanderbilt
29.San Antonio SpursPG Wade Baldwin IV, Vanderbilt
30.Golden State WarriorsC Zhou Qi, China
Author's projections

Safest Prospects in 2016 Class

6. New Orleans Pelicans: SG Buddy Hield, Oklahoma

Easy, right?

Buddy Hield, who captured the imagination of a nation during last year's Big Dance and averaged 25 points per game, looks about as pro-ready as it gets after four years with Oklahoma.

There is little to nitpick about Hield. The former Sooners star is a standout offensive weapon, though his size at 6'5" and 212 pounds is perhaps the biggest knock.

Four years’ worth of evidence speaks to the player he can be at the next level, especially when one looks at his ever-improving shooting percentages:

SEASONFG%3P%PTSREBAST
2015-16.501.45725.05.72.0
2014-15.412.35917.45.41.9
2013-14.445.38616.54.41.9
2012-13.388.2387.84.21.9
ESPN.com

Hield is destined to land on a team that is looking for more impact now as opposed to later. 

In other words, the New Orleans Pelicans. He's a top-10 draft talent as is right now, and the Pelicans cannot afford to keep waiting for players around Anthony Davis to blossom.

The combo of Davis and Hield won't fix the Pelicans overnight, but the selection is a step in the right direction for a franchise that is still figuring out how to surround a superstar with quality pieces. Assuring improvement via a draft pick such as Hield is a good way to start.

8. Sacramento Kings: PG Kris Dunn, Providence

Providence point guard Kris Dunn is a physical presence on the court with a great ability to slash and get others involved, though he struggles at times with his shot. 

Sound familiar? 

Folks won't be able to watch the draft without hearing Dunn get compared to Rajon Rondo, who was also classified as a pro-ready player with similar strengths and issues.

Dunn gets a top-10 nod with this skill set because he has the physical and intangible things that coaching cannot teach. He's 6'4" and 220 pounds with four years of collegiate ball under his belt, and he most recently averaged 16.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game.

Everything about Dunn helps explain why CBSSports.com's Sam Vecenie ranked him as the top point in the class:

Few players in this draft can combine the athleticism, size and skill that Dunn has. He has a wicked first step to get into the paint at will, the ability to finish inside from a variety of angles, plus can find teammates with terrific vision. Plus, he might be even better on the defensive end, where he's possesses All-League potential. 

The Sacramento Kings won't have an issue taking Dunn off the board at No. 8, going into a summer in which Rondo heads to free agency.

Already a stout two-way player who can get others involved, man up on defense and make important switches to cover shooting guards and forwards, Dunn can help the Kings stay competitive and keep DeMarcus Cousins happy, while the team builds up the other positions on the roster.

9. Toronto Raptors (via Denver): C Jakob Poeltl, Utah

Like Dunn, the size and ability to play a position well with few identifiable weaknesses makes Utah center Jakob Poeltl one of the safest players in the draft.

The biggest knock on Poeltl right now might be his strength in the low post, but hitting the weight room to fill out an NBA-ready 7'1", 239-pound frame isn't the worst situation in the world.

Poeltl was a monster over his sophomore campaign with the Utes, averaging 17.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. As an ESPN.com scouting report noted, perhaps the biggest knock on his game pertains to the current state of the Association:

Poeltl is the best center prospect in the draft, although in an era of small ball, that doesn't mean as much as it used to. He's very skilled, but his lack of strength and questions about his ability to stretch the floor limit teams' enthusiasm. He has a pretty narrow draft range of No. 9-13, with the Raptors, Bucks, Magic, Jazz and Suns all showing interest.

Poeltl didn't make much of an attempt to stretch the floor in college, but certain teams still don't ask centers to do so.

Take the Toronto Raptors, for example. So long as the team gets DeMar DeRozan back this summer, the roster has few major needs other than addressing the potential departure of backup center Bismack Biyombo.

With starter Jonas Valanciunas having appeared in 80 or more games just twice in four years, a pro-ready backup such as Poeltl provides strong insurance while developing on the bench and perhaps one day competing for the starting slot.

All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

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