Caleb Houstan aims to stand out again



The Orlando Magic caused a stir on draft night by taking Paolo Banchero first overall. Before the draft even started, they traded one of their second-round picks to the Los Angeles Lakers for a future second and cash considerations.

No one could guess who they were looking at with their second round remaining.

It wasn’t as surprising as their first-round pick, but still a bit picky that they picked Michigan forward Caleb Houstan.

Predictions of where Houstan would land were all over the map. He withdrew from the NBA Draft Combine, leading some to believe he was done testing the NBA Draft waters and returning to Michigan or promised to go somewhere in the first round.

Caleb Houstan was a high school student who struggled in his only year at Michigan. But he did enough to intrigue the Orlando Magic and give it a chance to shine on a bigger stage.

Mock drafts had him as a late pick in the first round at its highest until the middle of the second round. No one knew where this former high school student would go.

Houstan’s stats haven’t jumped off the page, averaging 10.1 points, 1.4 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 0.7 steals per game in college. He had shot spreads of 38.4/35.5/78.3. It was hard to point to a single thing that Houstan did well and he didn’t have too many outstanding games – two 21-point efforts in back-to-back games against Rutgers and Illinois in February were his best individual outings .

From the outside, some fans may think it was a litter.

On the other hand, Houstan was ranked eighth in his high school recruiting class by ESPN and has one of the highest potentials of any 19-year-old in this draft.

The Canadian-born prospect played at Montverde Academy in Central Florida for one of the best coaching and high school systems in the country. He finished second on his high school team in averaging 13.6 points per game (only behind lottery pick Jalen Duren). He shot the 3-pointer extremely well from 39% from deep.

All that talent is still there even though he struggled in Michigan.

He uses his 6-foot-8, 205-pound frame to his advantage, grabbing 4.7 rebounds per game in high school with the help of his 7-foot-0 wingspan.

Houstan has the ability to shoot the best of them and didn’t get a chance to fully prove it in college.

He’s a great point shooter and that’s where most of his points come from. It seems to be where he’s most comfortable on the pitch, coming off screens and dribbling transfers to hit threes.

His career-best college game came against Rutgers where he scored 21 points while shooting 5-for-9 from behind the arc. This proves his ability to command the defense not to sag from the outside, which helps all players around him look better to the edge.

Defenders challenging his shot don’t seem to bother him too much, as he has a very high trigger point on his jumper. It has a very deep range that should translate well to the next level.

His dribbling pull-up and any dribbling shot are really glaring weak points in his game. He moves very well with the ball but when it comes to creating his own shot he struggles.

He relies heavily on the strength and play of his teammates to get open shots. Playing at a professional level should actually help his game because when the defense focuses on other players, his game will flourish.

Houstan’s ball handling could use a bit of work but it’s not what is expected of him for his size and style of play. He transitions well due to his ability to see over the top defense. But in the half-court, he can make a few telegraphed passes.

His defense is useful. He’ll be a target, but he probably won’t win a Defensive Player of the Year award anytime soon. His good point on this end of the ball is his off-the-ball and spinning defense. He uses his length to help drive opponents towards the basket and can challenge and modify shots with his wingspan.

Houstan played well in Michigan’s first-round upset against Colorado State in the NCAA Tournament, scoring 13 points and grabbing five boards. His next two games weren’t so encouraging, scoring zero points in Tennessee’s second-round loss to Michigan. It practically disappeared at times. He scored just five points in his team’s loss to Sweet Sixteen against Villanova.

It’s kind of the double-edged nature of Houstan’s college career. Lots of promises that shone in flashes then a few galleys to get off the ground.

One thing that stood out was how much Coach Juwan Howard seemed to trust the freshman.

Howard let him in games where he may have struggled, but his minutes never seemed to dwindle. Houstan has only played under 25 minutes once in his time at Michigan and that was in a blowout win over Southern Utah.

The fact that his coach still has confidence even when his game doesn’t stand out shows the potential he has.

The Magic clearly see him as a potential role player and possibly even a Type 3 and D player. President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman highlighted his shooting and team-oriented play, noting how well he comes back in defense.

For Weltman and the Magic, there is more to Houstan than his box score numbers.

That’s what makes Houstan the perfect second-round pick for the Magic. He will have no pressure to play with Orlando’s deep formation right away. He can grow behind other shooting guards and small forwards on the team. And the Magic’s ability to use the G-League and Lakeland Magic should give them opportunities to gain playing time and experience they may be missing.

At his best, he gives us a much-needed shooter for a team that lacks pure three-point threats on the roster. The team will just have to be able to put in the time to develop it to become that.

If Caleb Houstan can work on his dribbling penetration and hone his catching and shooting ability, he could reach a pinnacle of a Ryan Anderson or Duncan Robinson type player. He will need to work on his defense, but having his size and frame will make it easier to defend and rebound the more he works at it.

Houstan has the potential and ability to shoot to have a very big impact on our team going forward. He has parts of his game that need work, but he brings a specialty to a roster that needs his shot.