Philadelphia 76ers: (Over)reaction to Matisse Thybulle’s first game

Matisse Thybulle | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Matisse Thybulle | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Matisse Thybulle looked the part of a contributor in his Philadelphia 76ers debut.

On Thursday night, five Philadelphia 76ers players made their team debut, including the Sixers’ latest first-round draft pick Matisse Thybulle. Thybulle, unlike Philadelphia’s previous two first-round draft picks, played four years of college basketball, and he was drafted to be an immediate contributor on a 76ers team with championship aspirations.

Thybulle was a highly-touted defender coming out of college, winning the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year in 2019 at Washington, where he put up 3.5 steals per game (led NCAA Division I) and averaged 2.3 blocks.

The Sixers traded for him on draft night, looking to add even more perimeter defense to an already stacked team with elite defenders in Joel Embiid, Al Horford, and Josh Richardson. After a defensively impressive preseason campaign where he averaged 2.6 steals and 1.4 blocks, Thybulle’s debut at the Wells Fargo Center was much anticipated by Philadelphia fans.

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Thybulle was the first player to come off the bench for Philadelphia, checking in for Richardson with 7:13 left in the first quarter, and he was tasked with stopping one of the most prolific scorers (who dropped 60 points on Philadelphia and Jimmy Butler last November)  in the league in Kemba Walker.

Thybulle, for the most part of his 22-minute debut on Thursday, was defending Walker. He and Josh Richardson successfully held Walker, who averaged 25.6 points last year, to 12 points while shooting 22.2 percent from the field. Thybulle was a tenacious defender, he didn’t give up on plays, and his length allowed him to block Walker twice in the game. His quickness on defense allowed him to swipe the ball away from Walker in the second quarter and intercept a bad pass in the post by Marcus Smart.

However, Thybulle bit on Walker’s foul-drawing gimmicks and committed two quick fouls within two minutes of entering the game. He ended the night with five personal fouls in just 22 minutes of playing time. It’s not unexpected, of course, for a rookie to be excited on his debut night and his opponent, Kemba Walker, is a master at drawing fouls, ranking 14th in free throw attempts last season. It’s reasonable to assume that when Thybulle gets more minutes under his belt and the game slows down a bit for him, he’ll clean his fouling tendencies up and improve as a defender.

Thybulle checked back in with 7:54 left in the fourth quarter, closing the game out for Brett Brown — it speaks to how much Brown trusts the 22-year-old rookie, using him to close out an important game against a bitter rival. Thybulle ended his night with an assist to fellow Sixer debutante Kyle O’Quinn and an off-balance corner three for his first NBA points. Not a bad night for the rookie.

After the game, Christopher Kline gave Thybulle a B- grade for his debut. In my opinion, Chris was a bit harsh on the young rookie, for his effort to lock down Walker and his disruptiveness, I would give Matisse Thybulle an A, with much more to look forward to.

I can see Thybulle as the sixth man right now (and a potential starter on a worse team, but the currently Sixers starters are just too good) and, when his offensive game develops, a very, very good player who has a shot at an all-star nod.Yes, this is definitely overreaction after one game, but I’m so excited to see this young man play, and so thankful for Brand for making the trade.

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Philadelphia, rejoice! The city has a new son, and his name is Matisse Thybulle. He has a beautiful, beautiful smile, and is a tough, tough kid on defense.