During the suspended NBA season, we at PSN have been going through the Sixers roster one-by-one to review how the players did this season. We’ve gone through the starting lineup and then some already, now we turn our attention to Sixers’ darling Matisse Thybulle.
Though a rookie, Thybulle has made a name for himself as a tough nosed defender, but even more so as the team’s goofy rook. Whether losing his phone and blaming his teammates, messing up food orders, or taking TikTok by storm, Thybulle has quickly become a fan favorite on and off the court.
We could spend all day talking about “The Marvelous Misadventures of Matisse” (and I just might some day) but for now we focus on the game.
Matisse Thybulle: 4.7PTS, 35.2 3P%, 1.4STL
When the Sixers drafted Matisse Thybulle the attraction came from the incredible level of defense Thybulle played at the University of Washington. You could tell just by watching one game that his defense would transition to the NBA. Who cares if it was a zone defense Thybulle was clearly meant to be an impact defender in the NBA and he delivered even in his first year.
If it wasn’t Ben Simmons, Matisse Thybulle would be guarding the opponent’s best player. The Sixers practically threw him to the wolves asking him to defend the likes of Kemba Walker and Trae Young. It didn’t matter who he was guarding, Thybulle had a great deal of success slowing down some of the league’s best. Even when he couldn’t stop somebody he found ways to make a defensive impact.
Thybulle is one of the best in the league at working the passing lanes, wiggling through contact to get a hand on the ball, Thybulle is a master pick-pocket. The on-court relationship of Thybulle and Ben Simmons is absolutely unbelievable. The two young Sixers guards are among the best in the league when it comes to producing turnovers and the pressure they put on ball-handlers constantly helps the other. It’s rare to see two players feed off each other so well defensively, especially at such a young age.
The defensive ability of Thybulle was almost a given even when he was drafted so it’s not really a surprise but his offensive efficiency has been beyond encouraging. Sixers fans were hoping that Thybulle could one day develop into a 3-and-D defender a la Danny Green, but Thybulle really upped the timetable. Shooting a cool 35.2% from three, Thybulle has already added the three point stroke that fans had hoped for.
As the season progressed, Thybulle clearly was becoming more and more confident which is bad news for the other 29 teams in the NBA. Thybulle finished 2019 looking like one of the NBA’s rising stars, but the new year would prove to be a challenge.
After touching his way through November and December, Thybulle shot only 25.3% from three through the end of the season. Now there were a lot of contributors, some things that may have been out of Thybulle’s control. When 2020 came, the Sixers found themselves in the midst of public chemistry issues and it clearly affected the team on and off the court. What may have impacted him even more was the rash on injuries the Sixers suffered as well.
Thybulle himself dealt with a knee sprain while stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons missed a combined 23 games in the new year. Both players play an integral role in Thybulle’s game. Simmons’ ability to find the open man led to more open shots for Thybulle than you can count as did Embiid’s ability to draw the double team, without them, Thybulle’s game suffered.
Obviously the drop in efficiency hurt Thybulle’s season but his lack of aggression also didn’t help anything. Even when Thybulle was shooting 50% from the field he was only taking 4.4 shots per game. The Sixers should never need him to be a volume score but he hurts his value being so standoffish.
All said and done, Thybulle had himself a successful rookie year. He may have short comings but none that weren’t expected. The value he brings on defense outweighs his offensive shortcomings (for now) and he’s still young. He’ll grow in time and surpass the Danny Green comparison but that’s a lot to ask so soon.
Thybulle adds value both on and off the court and that can’t be overvalued. He’s already a top three defender on the team and is only 23. Thybulle can and will continue to grow his game and eventually will be a starting swing-man for this team. So far, he’s off to a great start.
Don’t forget to check out some of the other entries in our “Season in Review” series:
Mandatory Credit – © Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports