On Saturday, Clemson released the news that guard Devin Coleman was leaving the basketball program and would be transferring. This gives him the opportunity to play in a year and contribute to a team after grades from the fall semester are official.
We don’t know where Coleman will be next semester, but we know it won’t be Clemson. My hunch is that his new destination will be close to his home in Philadelphia, but that’s just a guess.
For many fans, Coleman was a puzzling player. People watching games saw him continuously provide an offensive spark in limited minutes and moaned he wasn’t getting enough opportunities to turn that spark into productivity on the offensive end of the floor.
The same could be said of Coleman’s freshman year, when he became more productive on both ends of the floor as the season progressed. Defense never quite fascinated Coleman to the extent Brad Brownell and his staff wanted, which is why his stints were short and sporadic.
In between, an Achilles injury derailed an important developmental year for Coleman in his second season in the program. Now in year three and tenth on the team in minutes, Coleman saw the writing on the wall.
Plus, this kind of mini-purge was a necessity, and it’s not over yet. Brownell just signed two players with no graduating seniors. I like math, and I know adding two to a 13-scholarship maximum with no subtraction puts you over the scholarship limit. Something had to give, and something else will have to between now and next season.
Coleman was always a candidate to leave. As we noted earlier, he was near the back of the pack in minutes played. Younger players like Jordan Roper and Adonis Filer were already taking a ton of his minutes, and the staff really likes combo guard signee Gabe DeVoe.
One unmistakable facet of Coleman’s game that put him behind was defense. Simply put, it just wasn’t a strength. When he was recruited, Brownell even noted that it would be an adjustment for Coleman since Clemson would be playing primarily man-to-man and Coleman’s background was playing zone defense.
That’s why Coleman couldn’t stay on the floor. The staff at Clemson never felt fully confident he could help generate stops on defense, even though his offensive value was widely noted. The balance between measuring offensive and defensive value is a tricky one—one that ultimately may have worked against Coleman at Clemson.
Looking at plus/minus splits can help put Coleman’s value into context. This simply measures the relationship between team points scored and points allowed with a player on the floor. Clemson was +39 with Coleman on the floor this season, which ranks eighth on the team. This is a pretty good indicator that his presence on the floor wasn’t killing the Tigers.
Value can be further measured by a plus/minus statistic known as the Roland rating. Simply put, Roland rating measures the difference between team plus/minus with a player on the floor and team plus/minus with the player on the bench. This number should give a clue as to a player’s value to a particular team, not a general reflection of ability.
Only five Clemson players (Hall, Nnoko, McDaniels, Djambo, Blossomgame) have positive Roland ratings this season. Coleman’s Roland rating is -45, meaning the Tigers’ plus/minus on the floor (+39) was small compared to the Tigers’ plus/minus when he was off the floor (+84). That number was also eighth on the team.
This stat isn’t the be-all, end-all. Who you have on the floor matters, and a much more accurate use of the plus/minus stat is to look at combinations of players rather than isolating a singular one. Still, while it might not fill in the puzzle completely, these numbers can at least fill in some of the missing pieces.
To be fair, Coleman’s offensive efficiency numbers were very good relative to his teammates. He was a low-minute, high-usage player, meaning he was featured offensively when he was inserted into games. As noted above, Coleman ranked tenth in minutes per game, but had a higher usage rate (21.7) than all regular contributors except K.J. McDaniels, Jordan Roper, and Damarcus Harrison.
Furthermore, Coleman ranked fifth in points produced per 100 possessions (also known as offensive rating) with 114.2. In effective field goal percentage—which weights three-pointers slightly higher than two-pointers—Coleman’s 57.3 percent rate was higher than everyone but Landry Nnoko and Adonis Filer.
These numbers can create a jumbled mess, but the bottom line is this: Devin Coleman was a valuable offensive weapon in spurts for the Tigers, but the team won’t necessarily suffer much due to his absence. His unfortunate midseason transfer was a necessary evil because of Brownell’s efforts to upgrade the talent in the program by signing prospects in a year when no scholarship players were rotating out of the allotment.
Here’s wishing D.C. a fine career wherever he ends up playing next.