Max Christie, Caleb Houstan lead group of Michigan, Michigan State draft hopefuls
Several Michigan and Michigan State players are hoping to turn their long-awaited dreams into reality in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
How many will hear their name called remains to be seen.
Among the group of draft-eligible prospects, the best odds of being picked belong to Spartans wing Max Christie and Wolverines forwards Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate, a trio of former five-star recruits who were starters but not stars during their freshman seasons.
Christie and Diabate both took part in last month’s NBA Combine, a pre-draft showcase that Houstan reportedly turned down an invitation to, raising speculation that he might have received a promise from a team.
That’s added to the mystery surrounding Houstan, who was pegged as a lottery pick before suiting up at Michigan and fell out of most mock drafts by season’s end before re-emerging as a potential late first-rounder.
“Just based on feedback I was hearing through the workouts and things I’ve been hearing through my agent talking to the teams, I thought it was a good opportunity for me,” Houstan said when asked about his decision to stay in the draft after a workout with the Toronto Raptors earlier this month. "Internally, I’m confident enough in my game that I believe I can go to the next level.
“I just want to get drafted by a team that likes me and is willing to invest in me. …I’m not too concerned about (where I’m drafted).”
When asked if name, image and likeness had an impact on his pre-draft process, Houstan, a Mississauga, Ontario native, replied: “I couldn’t make money in college last year because of the international rule. You can’t make any money if you’re international, so no.”
In addition to Christie, Diabate and Houstan, Michigan State big man Marcus Bingham Jr. and forward Gabe Brown and Michigan guards Eli Brooks and DeVante’ Jones are all pursuing pro careers and have had their share of pre-draft workouts in recent weeks.
With that said, here’s where things stand in prominent two-round mock drafts heading into Thursday’s event, which will take place at 8 p.m. at the Barclays Center in New York.
Jonathan Wasserman has Houstan and Christie pegged as a pair of second-round selections, with Houstan going No. 35 to the Orlando Magic and Christie No. 41 to the New Orleans Pelicans.
“Houstan is still an enigma considering how quiet he's been during the pre-draft process,” Wasserman writes. “Everyone suspects there is a promise, though nobody has any confidence in who it's coming from.”
If Houstan did end up in Orlando, he’d join a pair of former Wolverines in brothers Moritz and Franz Wagner, the latter the No. 8 pick in last year’s draft.
Jonathan Givony projects Houstan, who averaged 10.1 points and four rebounds in 32 minutes, and Christie, who averaged 9.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in 30.8 minutes, to wait a little bit longer in the second round.
Givony has the San Antonio Spurs taking Houstan with the No. 38 pick and Christie being snagged at No. 47 by the Memphis Grizzlies, a team that includes a pair of former Michigan State standouts in Jaren Jackson Jr. and Xavier Tillman.
Like Givony and Wasserman, Kyle Irving has Houstan and Christie being drafted in the second round, with the Toronto Raptors taking Houstan at No. 33 and the Atlanta Hawks snagging Christie at No. 44.
Unlike Givony and Wasserman, Irving doesn’t have Diabate going undrafted. Instead, he projects Diabate, the All-Big Ten freshman team selection who averaged nine points and six rebounds in 24.9 minutes, to be selected by the Indiana Pacers with the 58th and final pick (note: two NBA teams had to forfeit a second-round pick for a violation of league rules).
Jeremy Woo sees Houstan and Christie being selected within the first seven picks of the second round, with Houstan to Orlando at No. 32 and Christie to the Sacramento Kings at No. 37.
“After Houstan opted not to attend the combine, there was immediate speculation as to whether he had a promise from a team,” Woo writes. “And while he may not have had one at that time, his draft range has come into greater clarity: the 28-35 range feels most likely, with the Warriors, Grizzlies, Magic and Raptors having come up with rival teams as potential landing spots. He may not be securely in the first round but should be in line for a guaranteed deal.”
Sam Vecenie, like Woo, has Houstan and Christie forecasted to be off the board early in the second round. But unlike the other prognosticators, Vecenie has Christie (No. 31 to Indiana) slotted before Houstan (No. 34 to Oklahoma City).
When it comes to Vecenie’s rankings of the top 100 draft prospects, he also has Christie (No. 27) ahead of Houstan (No. 46), writing that it’s “all about shooting and shot-making upside” with Christie while the argument for Houstan is that it’s “very difficult to find wings with legitimate size who can also shoot and have potential to defend.”