2023 Orlando Magic Player Outlook: Caleb Houstan needs to define his role to regain standing

Caleb Houstan has been one of the standouts of Summer League and signed his contract with the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Caleb Houstan has been one of the standouts of Summer League and signed his contract with the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports /

There is one thing no one should accuse the Orlando Magic of. They are not devoid of talent.

At least talent as evaluated coming out of high school.

The Magic have six players ranked in the top 10 of 247Sports.com’s basketball recruits from the last five years — Paolo Banchero (second in the Class of 2021), Cole Anthony (fourth, 2019), R.J. Hampton (fifth, 2019), Bol Bol (fourth, 2018), Mo Bamba (third, 2017) and Wendell Carter (seventh, 2017)

This list does not have a ton of All-Stars on it yet — Zion Williamson is the only one who has reached the NBA’s showcase game of that group. But it is full of strong contributors throughout the league.

Talent does not just evaporate. There may be development issues with these players or player who struggle to adjust to the physicality of the college game in different ways, but they are all still very good and many are still contributors throughout the league. These are the players who dot the top picks in the draft.

Players may never fulfill their high school potential, but they are still the players everyone focuses on come draft time. And most of these players are on NBA rosters.

This list also does not include Jalen Suggs (ranked 11th in the Class of 2020) and Caleb Houstan (11th, 2022).

Caleb Houstan had a difficult season at Michigan as he sought consistency. The Orlando Magic took a chance on him in the second round and seem poised to carve a role for him.

The Magic have talent. The question they face, as any team that has accumulated a ton of draft picks does, is how to develop all that talent and help them become the best version of themselves. Teams always hope they find their way in college.

Some players need a bit more time.

That is where the Magic find their investment in Houstan settling.

Houstan’s skills are pretty in need for Orlando. He has all the length and defensive capabilities that Orlando likes. That part made sense when the Magic drafted him.

What they need from him most is his 3-point shooting. And that is the area where he will stand out immediately. He just needs to be consistent and settle into a role to succeed.

The task now is to put him in the best position to grow and succeed. That is the bigger challenge on a roster full of young players who will also need their time. If there is a space for direct competition, it may well be among the young guards on the periphery of the rotation.

The Magic will be able to give him playing time. The question is whether the majority of that playing time will come with the parent club or if he is destined for a development season in the G-League.

Houstan had a decent, but ultimately disappointing season at Michigan. He showed enough and has the physical tools to be a high pick in the second round. The Magic liked him enough not only to draft him but to sign him to a deal after one Summer League game.

Houstan was nothing special at Michigan despite the hype around his talent coming out of Montverde Academy, the basketball factory located in Central Florida. He averaged 10.1 points per game while shooting 38.4 percent from the floor and 35.5 percent from deep.

Houstan’s 3-point shooting is his most translatable NBA skill. That came across in his Summer League run — where he averaged 8.5 points per game while shooting 32.5-percent from the floor and 25.0-percent from beyond the arc.

He had a big burst game, scoring 20 points and making five of nine 3-pointers with all the Magic’s starters in the game in the opener against the Houston Rockets.

The knock on Houstan during his time at Michigan was his inability to shoot on the move. He was not much of a shooter coming off screens and that limited his effectiveness. However, he was a knockdown shooter when he could get both his feet under him.

That alone is a skill the Magic need after they finished 29th in the league in 3-point shooting last year.

While he is not hitting 3-pointers off cuts, he is big enough to be a good target cutting to the basket. And that part can certainly supplement his game.

But the attraction with him is his 3-point shooting.

That is one of the things the Magic are investing in for sure with him. They desperately need 3-point shooting and Houstan is potentially a strong 3-point shooter.

For now, at least, Orlando does not seem overly concerned with his lack of production in Summer League. He stayed on longer than most of the other roster players and that put him in a bad spot as a creator. Devin Cannady, after all, also struggled from deep in Las Vegas and nobody is concerned with his shooting.

Orlando is not really expecting Houstan to create or be a driver beyond straight shots to the rim or transition chances.

Houstan could develop into someone who can do that. For now, his role is probably limited to that 3-and-D role. That is a good place for him to start and would put him in a position to succeed and grow.

It is just whether he can push for minutes on the main roster. Right now, Houstan feels like he is a long-term investment for the Magic, albeit one who needs to show some immediate dividends and potential.

Figuring out the Magic’s plan to develop and grow Houstan is one of the big challenges as the team looks at him individually.

Orlando has a ton of guards it needs to play — from Jalen Suggs and Markelle Fultz to Cole Anthony and R.J. Hampton with veterans Gary Harris and Terrence Ross thrown in for good measure and other young guards in Devin Cannady and two-way player Kevon Harris getting their chance too.

That is just a loaded roster of wings and most of them are young and in need of playing time. Someone is going to get squeezed out.

Houstan may be a player because of his age — he was the youngest player in the 2022 NBA Draft — who might do better getting more playing time in Lakeland. He could have done better with a sophomore yeat at Michigan. Lakeland might be the next best thing.

It is a safe bet the Magic will give him his chance to develop in Lakeland, ensuring he gets some playing time and a chance to develop beyond time in practice.

Success for Houstan this season will depend on his making shots and carving out his role when he is with the main roster as a solid defender and a reliable shooter. That is his pathway to fight for minutes. And he is talented enough to get there.

But with so many players ahead of him on the roster, the bulk of his playing time his rookie season may come in the G-League. That will probably help him.

Accepting this opportunity and making the most of it will be key to his success as a rookie.

The Magic have done a good job collecting some extremely talented players. It is getting the most of them when they get to the NBA. Houstan has the talent to be a really good player.

The question then entering his rookie season is where he can contribute immediately and where he can still grow. More importantly, Houstan has to find consistency and find a role.

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That will be what this season is about for Houstan, whether he is doing it in Orlando or in Lakeland. He has the chance to grow and find his place.