Why aren’t the Sixers giving Matisse Thybulle more minutes?

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New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum (3) drives to the basket against Philadelphia 76ers guard Matisse Thybulle (22) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Friday, Dec. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Matisse Thybulle is an All-Defensive 1st teamer, one of the most well-liked players on the Philadelphia 76ers, and one of the hardest working. He helped lead Australia to a bronze medal in the Olympics and has regularly been one of the key members for the Sixers rotation since being drafted back in 2019.

Then, with this season came an underwhelming number of minutes being given to the 4th year player. His minutes played dropped from 25.5 minutes to 12.1 minutes per game. After starting to come around last season, and showing flashes of improvement in an offense ran through James Harden, why did Head Coach Doc Rivers suddenly move Tisse from potential starter to bench role player who barely touches the court?

Added Depth

This off-season, Sixers’ star point guard James Harden took a massive pay cut to set up some off-the-court assists. The former MVP took less money guaranteed on a short-term deal (1 year plus a player option) in order for the Sixers to find cap space to sign former Rockets’ wings PJ Tucker (3 years, $30 million) and Danuel House Jr. (2 years, $ 8.5million). Other additions included an incredible draft night trade that netted the Sixers De’Anthony Melton and late offseason signee, Montrezl Harrell.

With all the added talent, the most common opinion from fans was that Matisse Thybulle’s specialized defense didn’t seem as justifiable as it once did. Many thought that while sure, Thybulle is one of the best wing defenders in the league, and that is extremely valuable, Tucker and House could provide okay defense with a higher three-point percentage. Melton himself was also seen as a defensive stopper, similar to Matisse, but added playmaking and shooting to his game. On paper, many didn’t see the need for Thybulle’s game. This doesn’t appear to be the case, though.

Not Enough Minutes

Spreading the bench minutes around between newcomers PJ Tucker, Danuel House Jr., De’Anthony Melton, and Montrezl Harrell while balancing playing time with last year’s group of Georges Niang, Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle, Paul Reed, and Furkan Korkmaz was always going to be a challenge, but having too many solid players seemed like a good problem to have.

This is not the problem we have run into. Instead of having too many players, or having to make hard decisions about who to play or not to play, Sixers’ head coach Doc Rivers has been relying heavily on the starters. James Harden is averaging 36.8 minutes per game. Embiid is averaging 34.8 per game. Maxey and Tobias are averaging 34.0 and 33.8 minutes per game, respectively. With players starters taking up so much time and the intense levels of playing time other players are getting, one can see how there may not be enough minutes for Thybulle to play a lot of minutes.

Offensive Output

Matisse Thybulle is an unstoppable defensive force. He’s one of the defensive players in the entire league, but a stigma around his negative value on offense has kept him from getting a ton of minutes this season. Whether or not this is a fair statement, it is the only way to justify why Thybulle hasn’t been getting minutes as of late for this Sixers team.

Last season, Thybulle averaged 5.7 points per game on 50.0% from the field and 31.3% from deep. Those numbers went up when playing with James Harden; the defensive ace shot 51.6% from the field and 37.1% from three. Wednesday night, as the Sixers faced the Brooklyn Nets, Thybulle once again showed his growth as an offensive player. Despite only getting 12 minutes, Thybulle scored 10 points on 3/5 shooting (2/4 on threes) while also procuring three steals.

What Happens Next?

Thybulle can’t keep trying to prove himself in only 12 minutes a game. It’s not fair to ask him to sustain that. If we want to know, truly know, where Thybulle’s progression has led him, he needs to have some games where he is given a fair chance to show what he can do. He is one of the most impactful defensive players in the entire league.

We don’t know where he’s at offensively right now. Hopefully, the Sixers will give him a chance to show what he’s got, especially considering that Matisse Thybulle will be a restricted free agent this offseason.