Caleb Houstan's shooting can help Orlando Magic's three-point problem

Caleb Houstan is getting more minutes this season compared to his rookie year last year. He could be a key to the Orlando Magic fixing their three-point issues as 2024 approaches.
Boston Celtics v Orlando Magic
Boston Celtics v Orlando Magic / Rich Storry/GettyImages

As 2024 approaches, the Orlando Magic face a problem that has remained with them throughout all of 2023. The three-point shooting has not taken off as anyone would genuinely like and it is holding their offense back.

Everyone can see it with how teams pack the paint against them and make every half-court set seem like a difficult one. The Magic have lost plenty of games this season simply because they cannot hit an open shot.

It has forced Orlando to say things like reminding each other to stay confident in their shot and trust their work in practice, even as they press to make even open shots during games.

Shooting remains the biggest focus for the team as the trade deadline approaches. But the team needs solutions on the roster in the meantime.

Caleb Houstan's increase in playing time this season may help lead the Magic in the right direction when it comes to taking the three-point shot.

Houstan has proven himself to be a fairly reliable shooter, hitting some big shots in his limited minutes off the bench. Orlando may be leaning on him because his defense has progressed nicely, but Houstan is in the league for his shooting. And that is what he has delivered.

Houstan is playing only 11.9 minutes per game in 21 appearances through the Magic's first 30 games. But he is carving out a more consistent role than he did last year when he played only in emergencies. Caleb Houstan is still out of the rotation, but is the first call when Jonathan Isaac, Joe Ingles or Gary Harris have to miss time.

It is because he has become a somewhat reliable shooter.

Houstan is averaging just 3.7 points per game this season but he is shooting 38.2 percent from deep with most of his shots coming from beyond the arc. He hit two three-pointers in the Orlando Magic's loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday.

He is one of the few players who has a green light to shoot whenever he can with his quick overhead release. That is something the Magic desperately need to add to their offense.

Orlando as a team finds itself in the same spot as last year when it comes to three-point shooting.

The Magic take the second-fewest attempts per game and have the second-fewest makes per game. Percentage-wise, they sit 28th overall in the NBA following another horrid 9-for-33 shooting performance Wednesday against Philadelphia.

That game marked the ninth game this season where the team shot worse than 30 percent from deep and the third time in the last five games that has happened.

The Athletic recently named the Magic the worst shooting team in the league based on field goal percentage and free throw percentage outside of the paint.

Overall the team's shooting percentage is a step down even from their 25th overall ranking in three-point percentage last year. Heading into the New Year, it remains clear the Magic have yet to find a good stroke from beyond the arc.

Houstan showed promise with his shooting from behind the arc after the Magic selected him in the second round of the 2022 Draft. Last season, he shot better than 35 percent from long distance in November, December, January, February and April. He also averaged 16 minutes per game last season, showing that with playing time, Houstan can be productive.

Houstan began this season with sporadic and little playing time. In October and November, he did not play more than 15 minutes in any contest (the most minutes he played during November came against the Dallas Mavericks with 14).

This led to few shot attempts from beyond the arc and made it difficult to evaluate him because of the lack of playing time. He did not have more than 5 three-point attempts in any game (the most he had in November was four against the LA Clippers on Halloween).

Houstan's minutes in December increased a lot due to injuries within the Orlando guard rotation to Markelle Fultz and Jalen Suggs and forward Jonathan Isaac. Houstan was ideally flexed into the 2-guard rotation when Jalen Suggs was out to play behind Gary Harris who usually starts in his place.

He is averaging 17.0 minutes per game in December, similar to his peak last year. It has led to shaky results from three-point range as he sits as a 31.6-percent shooter from there this month. But what is encouraging is the number of attempts he is putting up in response to his minutes increase as the Magic need help getting shots up from three as a whole.

Houstan has an overall average of 2.6 attempts per game from three. That ranks sixth on the team with him averaging at least 14 minutes less than the teammates that rank above him.

He has put together plenty of games with lots of attempts especially in December.

This month, Houstan has three or more 3-point attempts in eight out of the 10 games Orlando has played including going 2 for 4 in Wednesday's loss to Philadelphia. He is averaging 3.8 attempts per game in December.

He has not been afraid to put up some shots.

This is increasingly positive since Houstan hit this mark in just two games he played during October and November. Having a fearless shooter goes a long way and the Magic trust the young second-year player to fire and find the mark.

Houstan neither is nor should be the Magic's end all, be all player when it comes to three-point shooting. But, his role is to get a lot of long-range shots up and make them at a mark he can hit.

Next. quick starts 12.28.23. Quick starts key to Orlando Magic's success. dark

This will help the Magic get out of the NBA basement of poor three-point shooting teams. Orlando needs shooters and right now their best bet is to develop one like Houstan to fit the bill.