The Orlando Magic made quite the splash on Draft night taking Paolo Banchero first overall. Before the draft even started they traded one of their second-round picks away to the Los Angeles Lakers for a future second and cash considerations.
It was anyone’s guess who they were eyeing with their remaining second-rounder.
It was not nearly as surprising as their first-round pick, but still a bit eyebrow-raising that they chose Michigan forward Caleb Houstan.
Predictions for where Houstan would land were all over the map. He backed out of the NBA Draft Combine, leaving some to believe he was either done testing the waters in the NBA Draft and returning to Michigan or that he had a promise to go somewhere in the first round.
Caleb Houstan was a high school standout who struggled in his lone year at Michigan. But he did enough to intrigue the Orlando Magic and give him a chance to shine on a bigger stage.
Mock drafts had him as a late first-round pick at his highest to the middle of the second round. No one knew where this former high school standout would go.
Houstan’s stats did not jump off the page, only averaging 10.1 points, 1.4 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 0.7 steals per game in college. He had shooting splits of 38.4/35.5/78.3. It was hard to point to any one thing Houstan did well and he did not have too many standout games — two 21-point efforts in back-to-back games against Rutgers and Illinois in february were his strongest individual outings.
From the outside looking in, some fans may think this was a reach.
On the other hand, Houstan was ranked eighth in his high school recruiting class by ESPN and has some of the highest potential out of any 19-year-old in this draft.
The Canadian-born prospect played at Montverde Academy in Central Florida for one of the best coaches and high school systems in the country. He was second on his high school team in scoring averaging 13.6 points per game (only behind lottery pick Jalen Duren). He shot the 3-pointer extremely well at 39 percent from deep.
All that talent is still there even though he struggled at 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 with the best of them and did not get the chance to prove that fully in college.
He is a great spot-up shooter and that is where most of his points come from. It seems to be where he is most comfortable on the court, coming off of screens and dribble hand-offs to hit threes.
His highest scoring career game in college came against Rutgers where he scored 21 points shooting 5 for 9 from behind the arc. This proves his ability to command the defense not to sag off him from the outside, which helps all the players around him get better looks towards the rim.
Defenders contesting his shot do not seem to bother him much, as he has a very high release point on his jumper. He has very deep range that should translate well to the next level.
His dribble pull-up and any shot of the dribble really are glaring weak spots in his game. He moves very well off 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 the professional level should actually help his game because when the defense is focused on other players his game will flourish.
Houstan’s ball-handling could use some work, but that is not what is expected of him for his height and play style. He passes well in transition because of his ability to see over the defense. But in the half-court set, he can make some telegraphed passes.
His defense is serviceable. He will be a target but he also probably won’t win any defensive player of the year awards anytime soon. His bright spot on this end of the ball is his off-ball and rotational defense. He uses his length to help on opponents driving to the basket and can contest and alter shots with his wingspan.
Houstan played well in Michigan’s first-round upset of Colorado State in the NCAA Tournament, scoring 13 points and grabbing five boards. His next two games were not so encouraging, scoring zero points in Michigan’s second-round upset of Tennessee. He practically disappeared at times. He only scored five points in his team’s Sweet Sixteen loss to Villanova.
That is kind of the double-edged nature of Houstan’s collegiate career. A lot of promise that shined in bright flashes and then some struggles to get himself off the ground.
One thing that stood out thought is how much coach Juwan Howard seemed to trust the freshman.
Howard left him in games where he may have struggled but his minutes never seemed to dwindle. Houstan only played less than 25 minutes once in his time at Michigan and that was in a blowout win against Southern Utah.
The fact his coach still had confidence in him even when his play did not stand out shows the potential he has.
The Magic clearly view him as a potential role player and maybe even a 3-and-D-type player. President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman highlighted his shooting and his team-oriented play, noting how well he gets back on defense.
To Weltman and the Magic, there is more to Houstan than his box score numbers.
That is what makes Houstan the perfect second-round pick for the Magic. He will have no pressure to perform right away with Orlando’s deep roster. He can develop behind other shooting guards and small forwards on the team. And the Magic’s ability to use the G-League and the Lakeland Magic should give him opportunities to gain playing time and experience that he may be lacking.
At his best, he gives us a much-needed shooter to a team who lacks pure three-point threats on the roster. The team will just need to be able to put the time in to develop him to become that.
If Caleb Houstan can work on his dribble penetration and hone in on his catch and shoot ability he could reach a peak 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 defense and rebounding come easier the more he works on it.
Houstan has the potential and shooting ability to make a very important impact on our team in the future. He has parts of his game that need work but he brings a specialty to a roster that is in need of his shooting.