There were a lot of unknowns going into this 2013-14 Gonzaga Bulldogs season, and one of the bigger question marks was how Gerard Coleman would fit in with his new squad after sitting out a year.
Coleman seemed to be a coup at a time. He averaged 13.2 points in his sophomore year at Providence and would give something that most Gonzaga teams often lack -- athleticism. He is lanky, he is fast, he likes to drive to the hoop and he would open up the floor in ways we could only dream.
There are still people dreaming that this will happen. Mark Few isn't one of them, and this has led to a lot of outcry in these here parts about the mismanagement of Coleman in the lineup. After being a starting mainstay at Providence, averaging 29.6 and 34 minutes per game, Coleman has seen the court to the tune of just 12 minutes per game this year. It is really hit or miss as well, in 14 of Gonzaga's 28 games so far, he has seen the court for less than 10 minutes.
He still appears to be scoring at a solid clip. His 6.6 points per game translated over 40 minutes would give him the best of his collegiate career. Coleman is shooting 50 percent from the floor, much of that from the slashing. Yet, he still doesn't see the court as often as he should.
If I were Mark Few, with the statistics that I have in front of me, I would limit Coleman's contributions as well. Coleman isn't a huge man-child to throw out on the wing. He is 6'4 and a lean 180 pounds, so although he has solid length and quickness, he has a hard time holding position against bigger guards. Coleman has also just never been that good of a defender in general -- and this year the only person who has less defensive win shares than Coleman is Angel Nunez.
Edit: I'll be the first to readily admit an error - so here it is. Wrong stat to showcase my point. It also detracted from the overall focus of the article.
Now, if Coleman was able to make it up with his offense, all would be good. But that is exactly it -- Coleman isn't able to make up for his defensive shortcomings on offense. Many of the unorthodox drives to the hoop he takes result in free throws, but he is hitting just 53 percent from the floor there. He also turns the ball over -- a lot. Put Coleman in the game for 40 minutes, and his 3.8 turnovers lead any of the other starters by a full turnover.
That is just the beginning of it all. With all the data that is available nowadays, players can be judged beyond just points, rebounds and assists. Dean Oliver, a statistician and author of Basketball On Paper, created many of the statistics employed by sites such as KenPom. So, let's take a look at Ken Pomeroy's ratings for the Gonzaga Bulldogs, organized by offensive rating. Offensive rating is one of those numbers where the higher is the better. For Coleman, this isn't a good thing.
Much of this stems from Coleman's inability to score while at the foul line, and his inability to draw the fouls that many of his drives to the hoop are aiming to get. If you take a look at his free throw rating, which is an attempt to analyze a players ability to get to the line relative to how often they attempt to score, it isn't very good. Coleman's FTR sits at 36.4, a shade better than Pangos 31, but much worse than David Stockton's 44.1. Coleman's game doesn't revolve around taking the open shot, or kicking out to the open passer. His offensive mindset is to drive to the hoop and to score. Coleman aims to create offense when there is none, and this works to middling degrees. Overall, we see a lot of drives like this resulting in turnovers.
Coleman is one of those pot-committed kind of players with a tunnel vision of the basketball hoop. That mindset is required for players of his style, whose only goal is to score points. But it also requires knowing when that isn't going to happen, and more times than not, Coleman isn't able to identify those situations. In the above example, Coleman drove down the baseline and the West Virginia rotation made exactly what it needed to do. Rather than trying to find the open player, Coleman keeps on going for the hoop as the angle gets smaller. He eventually went up for a shot that was negated because he stepped out of bounds.
That doesn't make the Coleman transfer a complete failure. The kid is still one of the more athletic players out there, and statistics can't quantify the impact things like big dunks and athletic takes to the hoops have on the momentum of the game. Perhaps Coleman also came in with expectations riding too high. All we heard in Gonzaga land was words like athletic and long coming from the Providence camp, and he was the kind of player the team hasn't had in a few years.
The final question is what to make of Coleman's apparent decline this year, but the truth of the matter is that there really isn't a decline. Coleman has been able to score points, but he has never done so in an efficient manner. Without the minutes or being the focal point of the offense, he isn't nearly as good at creating his own offense. Take a look at his offensive rating over his college career.
Efficiency has never been Coleman's game. The prospect of Coleman is exciting. He brings the threat of a lot of points in a not too many minutes. The thing with threats is that not all of them are realized, some just peter out and fade into memory. For everyone that is constantly yelling at Few to play Coleman more, statistics are showing that Few is making a right call here. Statistics aren't everything, but they do count for something.