The third-year wing looks to build upon an impressive summer overseas
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be profiling every player currently on the Sixers’ roster ahead of training camp, which begins on September 28.
Age: 24 (turns 25 on March 4)
Contract status: Third year of a four-year, $12.5 million contract. Set to make $2.84 million this season, with a $4.38 million club option next season.
Selected by the Philadelphia 76ers with the 20th overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft, Matisse Thybulle has quickly made a name for himself as a defensive savant. As a rookie, the 6-foot-5 wing averaged an absurd 2.6 steals and 1.3 blocks per 36 minutes. Regression to the mean did not hit in the least during his second season. Last year, Matisse rocked even higher per-36 averages of 2.9 steals and 2.0 blocks, while committing fewer fouls (127 fouls last season, compared to 141 during the 2019-20 season, per StatMuse). For his efforts, Thybulle received NBA All-Defensive Second Team honors; his 20.0 minutes per game represented the lowest mark ever for a player making an All-Defensive team.
Thybulle routinely defies what we previously perceived as the laws of physics on the basketball court, whether he’s teleporting across the court for a steal or using his Outstanding grade in Apparition to appear out of thin air in blocking an opponent’s jump shot from behind. I would encourage you to view Tom West’s recent Film Fix pieces on Thybulle for an expanded look at his impressive video highlights from last season: Steals – Blocks. Here was one of my favorite plays, though:
Still amazed by this Matisse Thybulle defense last night. He’s nearly to half court trying to deny Kemba Walker, backpedals around the pick, briefly stumbles off a wicked cross from a 4-time All-Star, but recovers to block the shot and get a run-out dunk. pic.twitter.com/C6RVYa6P2M
— Philly Fast Break (@PhillyFastBreak) January 23, 2021
Matisse continued his disruptive ways in this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, playing a vital part in Team Australia’s bronze medal run, averaging 7.8 points, 3.0 steals, and 0.5 blocks per game. Likely his highest-profile moment, though, came during Australia’s exhibition win over the United States, when Thybulle stymied Kevin Durant on an attempted jumper in the lane:
You can probably count on one hand how many people can block a KD jumper. Matisse Thybulle has been Australia’s heartbeat through two warmup games; he’s the defensive leader (12 total steals/blocks), and has been knocking down some crucial spot-up threes.pic.twitter.com/6jqUFvVwwO
— Olgun Uluc (@OlgunUluc) July 13, 2021
Oh, and not for nothing, Matisse is one of the best vloggers in the world of sports.
Season outlook: The obvious question, then, is why did such a historically great defender only play 20 minutes per game last season. Thybulle’s offensive game is still very much a work in progress. His 3-point percentage dropped off from 35.7 percent during his rookie season to 30.1 percent last year. While we see the occasional nice pass or drive from Matisse, expecting him to develop into any sort of playmaker seems like unearned optimism. He has exhibited nice instincts as an off-ball cutter, though, so if his 3-point shooting can tick back up into the league-average range, there’s enough there to be passable offensively given everything Thybulle brings to the table on the defensive end.
We should expect to see Matisse in an expanded role this season given the likelihood of a Ben Simmons trade. While Thybulle had often been included in speculation as someone who might also be shipped out in a Simmons deal, the changing reality that the Sixers may not get a superstar in return for Ben, but rather a package centered more around role players and draft capital, means Matisse is much more likely to stick around.
If and when Simmons hits the highway in his Porsche 918 Spyder for another place of employment, the mantle of “Sixers’ main perimeter defender” will fall on Thybulle’s shoulders. It will be up to him to both incrementally improve his offensive game to not be a liability on that end, and continue improving his awareness in terms of committing fouls to stay on the floor for longer periods of time. However, based on what we’ve already seen in his first two years, there’s every reason to be optimistic that Matisse Thybulle is ready to level up and assume even more responsibility. I, for one, am more than ready to see his smiling face for closer to 30 minutes per night.