From the moment that you first see Briante Weber play the game of basketball, you can quickly recognize that he’s the kind of player that’s just willing to outwork the competition. That tenacity is most evident on the defensive end of the ball where Weber stands as an absolute menace due to his ability to attack the passing lanes or just anger the opposing ball-handler with incredible on-ball defense.
Weber’s incredible work ethic might come from the fact that he’s always stood as an overlooked player. That status dates back to high school where Weber stood as a relative unknown that didn’t even receive a single scholarship offer from a division I university. Fortunately, Weber was able to move past those initial issues once he landed at VCU.
Under the tutelage of Shaka Smart, Weber evolved from that unknown high school prospect to one of the best defensive point guards in college basketball history. There’s no hyperbole in that as Weber averaged jaw-dropping 2.94 steals per game during his VCU stint. Those kind of numbers allowed him to collect 274 steals during his four years at VCU, which is the third-highest average in NCAA history since that statistic was implemented for the 1985-86 season.
While Weber’s numbers are definitely impressive, they would’ve looked even better had the 6’2 guard didn’t have a premature end to his college career. That end came on a January 31st game against Richmond where Weber tore both his ACL and MCL.
Weber’s atrocious injury also dampened his status as a pro prospect as he quickly went from a potential mid-2nd round pick to likely being an undrafted player. That idea became a reality during the 2015 NBA Draft where Weber went through the entire night without drafted by an NBA squad. While he attempted to join the Miami Heat during the training camp, that knee injury prevented Weber from even being able to clear a physical. Despite that, the Heat would later bring back during the preseason for the sole purpose of having him join the Sioux Falls Skyforce as an affiliate player.
Due to that recovery, Weber wasn’t able to debut for the Skyforce until January 7th, nearly a full year after suffering that brutal knee injury. During the remaining stages of that D-League season, Weber showcased a ton of perseverance as he was quickly able to slide into a role as the Skyforce’s 6th man. Per usual, Weber was able to shine in that role as he averaged 10.7 points, 4.2 assists and 2.1 steals on 47% from the field in 29 minutes per game. That level of production was enough that Weber received separate call-ups from the Memphis Grizzlies and Miami Heat during the final weeks of the season.
Unfortunately, Weber was really able to land a significant role with the Miami Heat as the team ended up cutting him during the 2016 training camp. Following that release, Weber made his return to the Sioux Falls Skyforce for his second stint in the D-League.
While things technically looked the same as the prior year due to Weber rocking #11 across his chest, the young guard seemed to be at a whole different level. That difference was readily seen on the offensive end as Weber showcased the kind of facilitating and scoring skill that nobody was ever able to see from him.
Weber’s offensive improvement is seen from basic per game averages, which is evident from him averaging 16.5 points in 16-17 compared to 10.6 points during the 2015-16 season. Another area where Weber improved was as a facilitator, as his assist average evolved from 4.6 assists per game (2015-16) to 7.3 assists during the 2016-17 campaign.
His evolution as an offensive player was mainly due to how Weber was able to be implemented as the Skyforce’s lead scorer, something that he’s never previously been. As evident from those aforementioned numbers, Weber immediately caught on to that role as he showcased the kind of offensive versatility that nobody’s previously seen. Over the course of the season, Weber showcased a knack as an on-ball cutter, offensive rebounder (1.6 offensive boards per game) and mid-range/perimeter shooter (36% on 3.35 perimeter attempts per game).
His offensive progression in addition to Weber’s amazing skills on the defensive end allowed him to be the most well-rounded player in the entire D-League. Because at his best, Weber stood as one of the only players that could really change the course of the game through their work as both an on-ball defender and scorer. His knack as an on-ball defender is evident from him averaging 3.3 steals per game. Coinciding with that, opponents were nearly five points per 100 possessions worse when Weber was on the court (101.7 points per 100) compared to when he was on the sidelines (106.5 points per 100).
Following a strong stint with the Skyforce where he put up a league-high five triple-doubles, Weber was able to graduate to the NBA with a call-up to the Golden States. While Weber was late cut from the Warriors, he was able to quickly catch on with the Charlotte Hornets, where he’s currently playing today.
After spending his entire career as a solid defensive-minded role player, Weber was able to use this season to showcase that he can be a leader and versatile offensive threat. The fact that he was able to develop both of those traits in a singular season is the biggest reason why Briante Weber has been named as RidiculousUpside’s Most Improved Player for the 2016-17 season.
Last season’s winner: Xavier Munford, Bakersfield Jam