Pittsburgh freshman center Steven Adams declared for the NBA draft on Tuesday, and his decision was met with surprise in some circles. The 6'11", 240-pound big man is only 19 years old, and is still considered very raw on the court. Many people assume Adams will need at least a year or two of grooming before he is ready for meaningful NBA minutes.
Don't count me among them.
You can't teach size and you can't teach a feel for the game. Adams possesses these two vital qualities and it makes him an intriguing prospect. Because of his size and skill set, Adams should be ready to make a small impact in the NBA immediately. He can bang the boards, he can block shots and he can run the floor well. Those traits will warrant playing time.
However, it is obviously Adams' long-term potential that makes him interesting, and a top-10 pick in my eyes. Adams is from New Zealand and has only limited experience playing basketball at a high level of competition. His play dramatically improved as his freshman season progressed, and there is no reason to expect this improvement will not carry over to the next level. He is still learning the game on the fly, and as I said, he has a feel for it that cannot be taught.
Unlike Isaiah Austin and Alex Len, two other highly touted 19-year-old center prospects, Adams is ready to contribute to an NBA team because of his mature frame. The fact that he had a solid, but not overly impressive, freshman year does not matter much.
Adams' dominant physicality is meant for the NBA, not college, and his situation is similar to that of Andre Drummond's. Drummond had an underwhelming freshman year at UConn, but has been an exceptional rookie for the Detroit Pistons. I doubt Adams will have the same stellar success as Drummond, but there is a legitimate chance he will turn into a very good pro center, and that means he is worth a high pick in the upcoming draft.