Despite having an extremely impressive rookie season, all things considered, there were some genuine question marks regarding what Matisse Thybulle’s role would be headed into the playoffs. Brett Brown typically leans on veterans down the stretch (plus the whole season being turned upside down due to COVID), it wasn’t outlandish to assume Thybulle would see limited action down in the Orlando bubble.
Two scrimmages later, and the possibility of Thybulle not playing in the postseason seems borderline impossible.
The road to Orlando
Like previously mentioned, Thybulle has had a very solid first season in the NBA. Through two scrimmage games, his slightly misleading stat sheet reads like this: (4.7pts, 1.5reb, 1.2 past). Thybulle very quickly emerged as a crucial piece to the Sixers roster. His 1.4 steals per game leads all rookies, while his 0.7 blocks rank sixth amongst his class. His 4.6 deflections per 36 minutes rank fourth in the entire NBA.
Thybulle’s defense is already starting to creep into “elite” territory and he hasn’t even played 60 games yet. His constant energy and activity on the court is something few NBA players actually possess. This shows when he’s jumping passing lanes and grabbing loose balls. His stereotypical “on-ball defense” leaves a bit to be desired at times (twitchy fouls), but I’m nitpicking at this point.
During the Sixers first Orlando scrimmage, Thybulle was the eighth man off the bench (Horford and Korkmaz came on first), which speaks well for his stock heading into the postseason. NBA coaches normally utilize an 8-9 man rotation in playoff series, and Thybulle inserting himself into that solidified role would be a massive victory for him in his rookie season.
During the team’s second scrimmage, Thybulle saw an even larger role. He played just under 20 minutes and pretty much stole the show with his constant defensive pressure. He recorded two steals and a block and was all over the court chasing down loose balls. Despite scoring just two points, a lot of Sixers fans walked away from that scrimmage thoroughly impressed with the rookie’s performance.
2x All-Star Ben Simmons even highlighted Thybulle specifically despite being asked a question about teammate Josh Richardson:
“So, to have him, Matisse [Thybulle]… guys who are very lengthy and able to get deflections helps so much.”
We’ve all heard the old saying that “defense wins championships”. For that reason alone, Thybulle could see himself receive a large role come playoff time. Whether it’s guarding guys like Kemba Walker one-on-one or simply just being active in the passing lanes, Thybulle adds that constant stress on opponents. When it comes time to grind out some nasty wins deep in the postseason, that type of energy is beyond valuable.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports