Since joining the team in early January, the record-breaking Sioux Falls Skyforce have gone 23-7 with point guard Briante Weber in the lineup. Tasked with replacing the production of Tre Kelley, a D-League Eastern Conference All-Star who left to play overseas in Turkey in February, Weber helped the team continue on without missing a beat.
Coming off the heels of a two-game sweep in which they made short work of Jimmer Fredette and the Westchester Knicks, the Skyforce are going to have to hope that they can find yet another answer at the point guard position with the recent news that Weber has signed a three-year deal with the Miami Heat.
Throughout the entirety of the year, Sioux Falls has made their name on the defensive side of the ball, ranking first in opponent points per game for a majority of the season. Weber was this defense-first mentality personified and quickly made his presence felt as one of the best perimeter defenders in the D-League after a standout career at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Along with his stellar effort defensively, Weber was able to competently guide the Skyforce offense, posting 10 points and four assists per game to go along with 40% shooting from three-point range. With the threat of Jarnell Stokes down low, Weber was able to make teams pay if they chose to sag off of him and provide extra help in the post.
The thought of losing their point guard in the playoffs had to have been considered by the team given the nature of the D-League and the forward-thinking mindset that they displayed over the past couple of months may end up saving their season in the end.
Two weeks after Kelley left to play in Turkey, Sioux Falls went out and traded the returning rights of Andre Dawkins to the Texas Legends in return for Toure' Murry, a point guard with over 50 games of NBA experience. In addition to that, around two weeks ago they brought in Larry Drew II, a point guard who spent time with the Philadelphia 76ers last year.
While Murry has received sporadic playing time throughout his time with the team, including a combined 14 minutes in the series against the Knicks, has he performed well each time that he has been called upon. He has scored 9 points per game on 50% shooting from three-point range in the nine regular season games that he played, but his real impact will be on the defensive side of the ball.
Standing 6'5 with an impressive 6'9 wingspan, Murry has been able to get consistent NBA looks due to the disruption that he can cause to opposing offenses. His long arms allow him to clog up passing lanes and his overall size allows him to seamlessly switch between both guard positions. While Weber established himself as a lock-down defender, the Skyforce shouldn't have much of a drop-off at all defensively, if they have any at all.
Behind Murry will be Drew II, should they choose to activate him for their upcoming series against the Charge. While Drew doesn't have nearly the frame that Murry does, he may be a bit more talented athletically. He has a quick first step which allows him to penetrate into the lane, but even if the defense takes away that option he's a reliable shooter from anywhere on the court.
Aside from their two newer players, Sioux Falls will also have Bubu Palo to help pick up where Weber is leaving off. Palo has seen his minutes fluctuate throughout the year, but he stepped up in January when coach Dan Craig called his number. In a recent conversation with Ridiculous Upside, Craig praised Palo's ability to be ready in a moment's notice.
Defensive impact can be measured in a number of ways, but as far as Defensive Rating goes, Palo actually posted a slightly better number than Weber throughout the season. While he may not bring the overall skill-set on that end that Weber does, Palo can more than hold his own against opposing guards.
The loss of Weber will certainly be a big one for Sioux Falls as they seek their first D-League Championship in team history, but the foresight that they had shown with the acquisitions of Toure' Murry and Larry Drew II, as well as the presence of Bubu Palo, has set their team up to keep the ball rolling as they move on to Canton.