There are no trades in college basketball. However, rarely, it sure feels like it. Today is one of those days. Joe Coleman will be transferring out of the program while Malik Smith, a senior shooting guard from Florida International, will be a Golden Gopher next year. Smith will be eligible right away.

Coleman’s departure doesn’t make much sense on the surface. He seemed to thrive in faster- paced, open-court games, and Richard Pitino seems hell-bent on speeding up the notoriously slow Big Ten. This should have benefited Coleman, who was always eager to pick off a pass or cherry-pick for an easy dunk. However, it should be noted that Coleman’s obvious limitations raise the question of how well he would fit in any system. He  was a poor shooter and a worse ball-handler. He is listed a 6’4” and a guard, but is closer to 6’2” and a power forward. Richard Pitino needs good on-ball defenders, ball-handlers, and three-point shooters. Coleman is none of these, and it is easy to see why Pitino didn’t put up much of a fight once it became clear Coleman wanted to go elsewhere. It is also easy to see why Coleman may have felt he was no longer a good fit for the Gophers.

On the other hand, it is easy to see why Richard Pitino brought along his second leading scorer from Florida International. Malik Smith fills some big needs on the offensive end. The 6’2” shooting guard is a pure scorer, who can get to the free-throw line but is much more comfortable shooting from the outside. He made 96 three-pointers last season on 36% shooting from behind the arc. As a comparison, Andre Hollins made 81 three-pointers on 42% shooting and Austin Hollins made 53 three-pointers on 34% shooting. Smith was the primary perimeter scoring option for Florida International last season, and he was asked to carry a big, if often inefficient load. He won’t need to be the primary scoring option for the Gophers, and the hope is he will thrive in a less demanding roll, and will be able to take better and smarter shots when surrounded by more skilled teammates. Of course, the Big Ten is a big step up in the level of competition, so we will have to wait and see how that goes.

Ortg %Poss eFG% OR% DR% ARate TORate FTRate 2pt FG% 3pt FG%
Coleman 99.8 19.6 50 5.6 10.1 12.3 24.1 30.5 50.7 29.6
 Smith 101.9 21.3 49.3 1.5 8.2 8.2 16.8 29.9 36.8 36.2

I plucked the above statistics from Ken Pomeroy to compare Smith and Coleman. If you don’t know what these statistics mean, go here. Summer is great time to study up. In a lot of ways they are similar players, statistically. Smith is slightly more efficient and uses a few more possessions, while Coleman is a slightly better shooter, because of his superior two-point field-goal percentage. Both Coleman and Smith record more assists than turnovers. However, Coleman’s turnover rate is frighteningly high, while Smith’s is just disappointing. Coleman, as we all know is terrible three-point shooter, while Smith might arguably be the best three-point shooter the Gophers have. Coleman is a much better rebounder, but he also spends a lot of time closer to the basket.

% at rim FG% at rim %2ptJ 2ptFG% %3pt 3ptFG%
Coleman 40 74 50 31 11 31
Smith 11 48 18 35 71 36

The real difference between Smith and Coleman is in their style of play. The statistics above, taken from Hoop Math, demonstrate why Smith is a better fit (Pomeroy and Hoop Math have slightly different numbers based on their data collection practices). Remember that both players are around 6’2”. Coleman attempted 40% of his shots at the rim, and made 74% of his lay-ups and dunks attempted. However, 50% of his shot attempts were two-point jumpers, the worst shot in basketball, and he made less than a third of them. In total, 89% of his shot attempts were inside the three-point line.  The Gophers struggled to spread out defenses last season, and often seemed like they couldn’t score outside of two feet. Coleman was a big part of the problem.

Smith is a real floor-spreader. He makes about half of his shots at the rim, which is about what one would expect for a 6’2” scoring guard. He avoids the bad shots, namely those pesky two-point jumpers, and will shoot early and often from behind the three-point line. His frequency and accuracy of three-point shooting should keep defenses from cutting off driving lanes or crowding the lane.

The Gophers lost a decent player in Joe Coleman, but gained a decent player in Malik Smith. Coleman might end up being the better player, but the Gophers should be a better team with Smith.