James Harden is Helping to Unlock Matisse Thybulle’s Offensive Ability

NBA: MAR 01 76ers at Clippers
LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 01: Philadelphia 76ers Forward Matisse Thybulle (22) looks on before a NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Clippers on March 1, 2020 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

It was clear what a unique player Matisse Thybulle was ever since the Sixers drafted him with the 20th overall pick in the 2019 draft. The Washington guard stands 6’5 but possesses nearly a 7-foot wingspan which he uses to terrorize opponents on the defensive end. His game-changing ability on the defensive end has earned him a spot in the NBA, but the limited offensive arsenal has brought up questions surrounding what his ceiling in the league could be. With just a few games played alongside James Harden, there have been some new exciting flashes in Thybulle’s offensive play, which could produce some incredible effects moving forward.

Matisse Thybulle’s Cutting Ability

One of the critiques regarding the Sixers’ offense early on this season has been that there has been too much standing around and watching. For the most part, Matisse Thybulle is the lone bright spot in this category as he is a willing cutter and possesses arguably the most athleticism on the roster. Typically sharing the court with Tyrese Maxey, James Harden, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid, Thybulle is regarded as the last priority on the offensive end and uses this to his advantage to sneak in under the basket for some easy buckets.

So far this season, Thybulle averages 1.63 points per possession on cuts which ranks ninth in the NBA. It is worth noting that Furkan Korkmaz ranks fourth in the NBA with 1.70 points per possession on cuts but does this at a much more infrequent rate. Furk has been registered as a cutter in just 4% of his possessions, while Matisse registers an 18.1% cutting frequency which is the highest of any of the top nine players in this category.

The Pick and Roll

One concept that the Sixers offense has failed to fully implement until recently is the use of Matisse Thybulle as a screener. While this is somewhat uncommon for a player Thybulle’s size, the Washington product has enough of an athletic edge to create some matchup nightmares in this situation. This was seen during the Olympics with team Australia, and Thybulle’s ability to pick up ahead of steam and dunk with ferocity is what makes it effective. James Harden has been instrumental in making this possible as he can be seen on the court pointing for Thybulle to screen in certain spots and creating windows for the vlog star to capitalize on.

Why This is so Important

There is no doubt that the calling card of Matisse Thybulle will always be on the defensive end. However, the growth he is showing on the offensive end is crucial to Thybulle to be able to log more minutes on a consistent basis. The 25-year-old has seen his minutes increase in each of his three seasons in the NBA, with him averaging a career-high 26.1 minutes this season. At the moment, Thybulle is considered a fairly high-end role player due to the weaknesses in his game. However, if he is able to continually progress on the offensive end, he could catapult into the discussion for a top-tier two-way player and quality starter at his position.

When looking at his scoring totals, Matisse Thybulle averages 4.7 points per game during his career and 5.8 points per game on the season. In the five games he has spent alongside James Harden, Thybulle has eclipsed double-digit points in three out of the five games and averages 8.2 points per game during this stretch.

There will always be things to nitpick about the offensive ability of Matisse Thybulle, but the strides that have been seen are noteworthy. The top-end potential of the young guard makes sticking with the growing pains of his offensive deficiencies worth it in the long run. The list of Sixers who have benefitted from James Harden goes from just about top to bottom, but the early results are clear on Matisse Thybulle.

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