Miami Heat Signs Guard Briante Weber to Three-Year Deal

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The Miami Heat ultimately got its man.

The Heat signed Briante Weber to a three-year, $1.9 million minimum-salary contract on Sunday.

The contract will pay out a guaranteed $12,355 for the rest of the season. The second year, at $874,363, will initially be 25 percent guaranteed while the third year, at $1.0 million, will initially be non-guaranteed.

Miami leveraged a small portion of its remaining taxpayer mid-level exception to complete the long-term signing (in much the same way as it previously did with second-round draft pick Josh Richardson).

The Heat quickly identified Weber, a defensive-minded guard in the mold of former Heat guard Patrick Beverley, as an attractive prospect after he went undrafted in June because of reconstructive surgery following a devastating right knee injury in which he tore the ACL, MCL and meniscus in his right knee in January of last season at Virginia Commonwealth.

Despite going undrafted, Weber attracted interest from more than half the league. But he kept close ties with the Heat organization. In September, he failed a physical with the team prior to the start of its training camp. However, the Heat nonetheless signed him to a training camp contract on October 19, then waived him five days later so that it could direct him to its D-League affiliate. 

He completed his recovery with the Sioux Falls Skyforce and returned to the court in January, nearly a year after his injury. In 22 subsequent games, Weber averaged 10.6 points (shooting 45.3 percent from the floor, and 44.4 percent from beyond the three-point line), 5.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals in 28 minutes.

In the final four of those games, after taking over the starting point guard role upon the departure of Tre Kelley for a contract in Turkey, his productivity grew substantially — averaging 20.0 points per game (shooting 52.5 percent from the floor, and 44.4 percent from beyond the three-point line), to go along with 6.0 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 2.8 steals in 40 minutes.

His defense was considered NBA-ready from the moment he recovered his health. But the progress of his offensive development under the Heat’s tutelage had teams taking notice.

With the Heat eager to sign him but waiting until the final week of the regular-season to fill its two open roster spots in order to remain below the NBA luxury-tax threshold, Weber was poached from its D-League affiliate by the Memphis Grizzlies, who signed Weber to a 10-day contract on March 11.

Despite agreeing to sign with Memphis – to a contract that paid out $30,888, more than his entire D-League salary – the connection between Weber and the Heat remained strong, with his agent Bill Neff making a somewhat unusual declaration that he could return to Miami upon completion of his initial or a potential subsequent 10-day deal. Players become unrestricted free agents after 10-day contracts.

Weber played six games for Memphis, averaging 4.8 points and 3.3 assists in 28 minutes. But after posting an impressive first game of his NBA career – 10 points (on 4-6 shooting), 7 assists and 5 rebounds over 40 minutes in a win over the New Orleans Pelicans – he struggled. He shot just 34.2 percent from the floor overall, and missed all five of his three-point attempts.

Following the conclusion of the contract, the Grizzlies chose not to retain him.

Weber thereafter returned to the Skyforce for another eight games, including a two-game sweep of the Westchester Knicks in the first round of the playoffs after his club completed an all-time D-League best 40-10 regular-season record, where he has remained until today.

Now he is with the Heat, for at least the rest of this season. He will provide Miami with depth on the wing for the playoffs should Tyler Johnson be unable to make it back from shoulder surgery. The primary motivation for the signing, however, is as a developmental project for the future.

Weber is a strong defender, with an unwavering motor, elite quickness to stop dribble penetration and a knack for swiping the ball. During his time at VCU, the 6-foot-2, 165-pound guard was third on the NCAA’s all-time Division 1 steals list with 374, behind only Providence guards John Linehan (385) and Eric Murdock (376). He also set a school record with a vertical jump of 45 ½ inches.

A key area for improvement will be the continuing evolution of his offense.

The partial guarantee for next season makes it likely that he will survive through at least to the Heat’s training camp next October, which in turn would mean that his addition would subtract $331K from its summer of 2016 cap space.

That the Heat is willing to sacrifice critical summer of 2016 cap space, no matter how little, serves as an indication of how highly it thinks of Weber. If he develops to expectations, the Heat can retain him at the minimum salary for the following two seasons, after which it could choose to make him a restricted free agent in the summer of 2018. The Heat will therefore be guaranteed the opportunity to retain him for at least the next four years if it chooses to do so, and can waive him at a bare minimum of cost if not.

With the Heat currently having no first or second-round pick in the upcoming 2016 draft, Weber effectively becomes its defacto selection.

The Heat, which over the next six years has just three first-round draft picks (of which none currently can legally be traded) and no second-round draft picks – the fewest allowable under NBA rules – continues to make the best of a challenging situation by compiling a strong grouping of youthful players, which in addition to Weber includes banished former second-round draft pick Hassan Whiteside, undrafted guard Tyler Johnson, 2015 second-round pick Josh Richardson and 2015 first-round pick Justise Winslow.

Not only are these players young and talented, all are or will this summer be signed to inexpensive long-term contracts (with the possible exception of Whiteside, a potential future All-Star, who figures to get a massive deal), making them potentially valuable to the Heat both on the court and, if they progress, in possible future trade scenarios.

The addition of Weber brings the Heat roster to 14, one shy of the 15-player limit. The team is expected to sign Dorell Wright on Monday to round out the roster, pending his ability to get his letter of clearance from FIBA. Miami is currently $23,817 below the luxury tax threshold, just enough room to immediately sign Wright to a rest-of-season minimum-salary contract. However, waiting until tomorrow would give it increased flexibility to maneuver under the luxury tax threshold over the final three days of the regular season should the need arise.

Both Weber and Wright could be on the active roster for the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs unless and until Johnson is cleared for play.

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