Caleb Houstan: 2022 NBA Draft Scouting Report
The 3-and-D role seems to be a fitting ceiling for Houstan. Is he dependable enough on both ends to command a first-round pick with that low ceiling?
Sometimes it really is about the production.
Michigan freshman Caleb Houstan had high expectations coming into his lone year in Ann Arbor. Houstan was part of a superteam at Montverde, joining Cade Cunningham, Scottie Barnes, Moses Moody and Day’Ron Sharpe on an unreal combination of talent for the high school level. Houstan’s game was complementary there: spotting up in the corners and on the perimeter, using his length to play in the open floor, and thriving off the talent of everyone else.
Of course, AAU would reveal a different game for Houstan. He’d play for CIA Bounce on the Nike EYBL circuit, and there he was rather unremarkable for a high major talent. Houstan shot a mere 25% from 3 in four games logged on the RealGM website, a far departure from what was believed to be his best role in the high school setting.
Houstan went from there to play for the Canadian U-19 Team in the FIBA World Championships. He’d been playing for Canada a fair amount, in the U16 Americas, U17 games, and then the U19 games in summer of 2021. Houstan was… not great. He shot only 19% from 3 in 7 games in 2021, and in 17 games over the three years of competitions, was sub 25% from deep.
In trying to figure out Houstan almost a year after those U-19 games, the Michigan film reveals a lot of flaws about his all-around game. Houstan struggles as an athlete, has a great deal of length but doesn’t always use it functionally. He’s a poor finisher at the rim, has slow and heavy feet, doesn’t have any touch in the mid-range and lacks any sort of playmaking for others.
If Houstan were to have one definitive skill that could mask all of those concerns, it would be his shooting. It’s the skill that Michigan certainly believed in the most and leveraged his game to be built around. Houstan was solid there: he made 40% of his catch-and-shoot 3-pointers from a spot-up situation.
When surrounded by other great talents, Houstan is good in that role. He’s a big wing who can shoot it standing on the perimeter. But there’s a good deal of evidence, mounting from his play before his time at Michigan, that hanging his hat on 3-point shooting might be questionable for an NBA future. But it is clear that he’ll need that skill to be where he makes his money.
The uncertainty around Houstan’s major skill being enough to carry him to success in the NBA mirrors the clouded pre-draft process he’s undergone. Caleb did not go to the NBA Draft Combine — to test, interview or play. There aren’t official measurements out there, he has disappeared and altered his schedule on the fly… it’s been a strange process.
Nailing down what that means is tricky. It could be a promise from a team super early in this process, or it could be his team trying to be selective about individual workouts for teams, selectively placing him in settings where his athleticism won’t be exposed and his shooting can succeed.
Outside of the strong spot-up shooting numbers, there was very little from Houstan’s freshman season that was redeeming. Our scouting report features some movement shooting upside, but he made less than 25% of his shots off screens. We still believe there is a little bit of movement upside, but the track record from what he proved at Michigan makes that really hard to fully buy into.
Where would we take Houstan? He’s pretty difficult to figure out, and we don’t like guys that we can’t easily predict or anticipate. We’d wait until the later part of the second round. There are a lot of uncertain guys in this draft class, in similar positions to Houstan. The hype coming out of high school (or early in their college careers) garnered first-round or lottery intrigue at one point for a half-dozen guys: Houstan, Kendall Brown, Patrick Baldwin Jr., JD Davison, Peyton Watson.
Houstan’s upside is so much more limited than all of them. While it might be easy to get a scalable role out of him as a 3-and-D prospect in comparison to the others, the athleticism hinders him in ways that are really troubling. We’d rather take a second-round risk on a guy whose athleticism isn’t in question and swing for the fences on any of those names first.