This begs the question, should the Mavs try to buy their way or trade their way back into the draft? It’s unlikely they’ll do anything to land themselves a first round pick. Those tend to be pricey, and if the Mavs loved anyone in the first round, they could’ve just kept their 26th pick. What about the second round, though? History has shown us it’s not too hard to sneak into the second round, especially if you can find a team trying to save a few bucks.
I’m not a fan of trading into the second round just for the sake of having a pick, but if there’s a specific guy available in the second round, and the Mavericks can jump in and take him, they should do it. That specific guy? Caleb Houstan.
Houstan is widely projected to be a second round pick, but that’s not due to a lack of talent. The 6-foot-8 forward was the 8th ranked prospect on the 2021 ESPN 100. He went on to play one season at Michigan, and the season was largely a disappointment — not only for Houstan, but for Michigan as well.
Michigan didn’t have nearly the imprint on the college basketball world in 2021-22 as they were expected to have. That contributed negatively to the Caleb Houstan scouting report. Obviously, Houstan’s lack of consistency had something to do with Michigan’s lack of success as a team, but it works both ways. It feels like people have largely forgotten about the talent that Caleb Houstan has.
At 6-foot-8, Houstan has an ideal frame for an NBA wing and also happens to be one of the purest shooters in the 2022 NBA Draft. He launched five threes per game and connected on 36 percent of those. But even his misses looked good. His release is lightning quick. He moves well without the ball. His range extends far beyond the college 3-point line. He’s not shy with his shot.
At the end of February, Houstan had consecutive games where he scored 21 points each outing, shooting a combined 12-of-20 from the field, 7-of-12 from deep, and 11-of-11 from the free-throw line. It was similar to a three-game stretch he had in January where he scored 16, 19, and 18 points, respectively, on a combined 18-of-26 shooting from the field and 11-of-16 from deep. If that doesn’t have your NBA alarms ringing, I’m not sure what will.
I’ve said a lot of good things about Caleb Houstan so far, and that’s because I think he’s a good player with a bright future. But obviously this guy’s not perfect or I’d be talking about him as a lottery guy, not a second-rounder.
During his freshman year, Houstan had some great stretches (as highlighted earlier), but he also had some abominable stretches. Over the final five games of the season, he averaged 5.4 points (including two scoreless outings) on 24 percent shooting from the field and 24 percent shooting from deep. That’s a tough way to end the season.
Inconsistency is what plagues Houstan. When he’s not playing well, he has a tendency to disappear on the court. You can forget he’s out there.
For those reasons, Houstan isn’t the same five-star prospect he was in high school, but the talent is still obvious.
Fit with the Dallas Mavericks
Everything I’ve said so far translates to somebody that would play well with Luka Doncic and could fill in some spot minutes. Picture a Cameron Johnson type player. He’s not perfect, but his 3-point threat should be his path to immediate playing time, even if only a few minutes per game.
The Mavs are in desperate need of some wing depth. They’ll likely add some fringe guys in free agency, but getting a young, cheap, second-round pick with rotational upside is a gamble worth taking. It’s low risk, and it could work out nicely.