Taft combines the size, strength and athletic ability that the NBA is desperately looking for, and that's exactly the reason he is considered almost a sure-fire lottery pick and potentially even a #1 pick if he can find a way to erase the many concerns scouts have about his game.
The first thing you notice about him is his body; he's just a monster for only being 19 years old, he's strong, and built very well in all the important places, but surprisingly quick and agile for a guy that size. You can see that he's got great potential just in the way he moves. He can really get up and down the floor in a hurry, and when an opponent is driving down the lane Taft will get up off the floor in an instant to block his shot. Taft also has long arms and big soft hands, which makes him a reliable target down low (and potentially an excellent rebounder). He can also pass the ball fairly well, even out of the double team.
Defensively he appears to be quite solid. His lateral movement is good, and he doesn't panic and pick up stupid fouls like a lot of raw, talented big men his age. It's hard to post him up or fake him out because of his strength and poise, and he can be pretty active when he wants to be and actually rotate well if he puts his mind to it. He's not a great shotblocker, but considering his body and athletic ability, along with his excellent timing, he has some potential here.
Taft is an above average free throw shooter for his size, that combined with a few sparks of a decent jumper along with showing that he can be a decent ball-handler, in the rare opportunity that he's asked to leave the post, lead you to believe that he will be able to develop a decent face up game sometime down the road.
Doesn't always look like he's giving 100% while he's on the floor, especially compared to his super active teammate in the post Chevon Troutman. His work ethic has been questioned, and his coaches won't go as far as to refute that. The way he jogs up and down the floor sometimes, his half-assed efforts to establish position and call for the ball in the paint, his lazy attempts at showing on the pick and roll or in the half hearted screens he sets for his teammates, this guy just doesn't look like he cares all that much most of the time. Maybe he's frustrated at the way his team fails to utilize his skills, but very often it looks like he's just going through the motions, not really wanting the ball but feeling some sort of obligation to pretend like he might. I have to say that this doesn't seem to be a basketball IQ issue though. Taft doesn't seem like a dumb player, on the contrary, he seems the understand the game quite well, it's more a matter of him just being too laid back and not putting the effort in to utilize his fantastic tools that make watching him so frustrating.
Taft doesn't have a whole lot of offense outside the paint. Except for a turnaround jump-hook shot he likes to take while posting up on the block, most of his points come off dunks or putbacks after offensive rebounds. In college he relies mostly on his brute force to score around the basket, adding some moves to his offensive arsenal and improving his footwork is a must for the NBA.
While Taft is a pretty athletic guy for his size, he doesn't have an outstanding vertical leap. Once NBA trainers start working with him to shed some of that baby fat though, that sentence might start to look a little outdated. Generally speaking, Taft could be in better shape physically than how he is right now. Finding the proper equilibrium between strength and quickness will be key for him.
Most of the time Taft looks like he has no idea what to do with himself, as if he has no clue what his role is on the court. Part of this has to do with the way he's being used at Pitt, but there's no doubt that he is extremely raw. He has shown very little improvement, if any, in his sophomore season.
Taft would greatly benefit from coming back to school for another year, working on his many weakneses, and proving that he is not the lazy player he has shown to be this season. The problem is, the NBA would probably write him a multi-million dollar check anyway.
A lot of people think that Taft's play this year has a lot to do with the fact that he thinks he's basically guaranteed to be a lottery pick regardless of what he does. Watching him play and considering the situation, that doesn't seem to be out of the realm of possibility. But once Taft starts sliding down past the 6th or 7th pick one draft night, it will be pretty hard to resist his supposed "potential". Especially with a guy like Isiah Thomas and Taft's hometown Knicks looking like they'll be drafting right around that area.
There is always the risk that if Taft DOES stay another year, he will prove to everyone that he is indeed a bust waiting to happen, and could end up not getting that coveted multi-million dollar guaranteed contract that him and his family are probably eagerly looking forward to.
A high risk/high reward type player. You could be getting a guy with Amare Stoudemire type potential in him, or you might be drafting the next Jerome James, but in the lottery this time. After watching him play more than a dozen times, I still haven't made up my mind which direction seems more likely. It's simply impossible to tell right now, because nobody has any idea what is going through the kid's head, and whether or not that will change as he matures. Is Coach Howland doing a poor job of motivating him?
The fact of the matter is, Taft has not dominated the way me and many others thought he would in his sophomore season at Pitt, and at the end of the day, the blame and consequences of that are going to fall on his shoulders. There is still plenty of time to fix that though, all he has to do is play hard. Taft knows that better than anyone else.