Philadelphia 76ers: Matisse Thybulle might fade out in playoffs

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia 76ers’ standout rookie has a few unavoidable flaws.

The strange and disjointed 2019-20 season presses on for the Philadelphia 76ers, who currently occupy the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. While injuries and inconsistency have ravaged the roster, many still expect Philadelphia to put up a fight come playoff time.

At this stage, the Sixers’ rotation is still in flux. Brett Brown has yet to formally nail down a fifth starter in Al Horford‘s place, largely because Horford has had to start in the absence of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Not until late this season, maybe even the postseason, will Brown have a full grasp of his nine or 10-man group.

With that said, recent games have conjured up a few notable premonitions — the strongest being Matisse Thybulle‘s uncertain (immediate) future. A fall from the rotation in critical moments feels almost inevitable for the Washington product.

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This is not to indict Thybulle on a larger scale. He remains an essential piece to the Sixers’ long-term puzzle — someone who, in time, should occupy the fifth and final spot in the starting five. He’s a genuinely exciting talent.

In the short term, however, it appears we — the populous of Sixers fandom and coverage — have slightly overblown Thybulle’s ability to contribute to winning. He is indeed a tantalizing defender, but the 23-year-old lacks the offensive repertoire to thrive in a postseason setting.

The Sixers’ offense has suffered from rigidity all season. Spacing and ball movement have come at a premium, and Thybulle addresses neither area of weakness. In fact, he contributes to them to a significant degree.

Thybulle is shooting 35 percent from deep this season. Not inherently a bad number. That number, however, is misleading. Thybulle has often traded hot streaks for cold spells, and his inability to shoot on the road mirrors the Sixers’ offense as a whole.

Beyond shooting, Thybulle lacks the tool kit to meaningfully contribute on offense. He’s a stiff ball handler, a middling passer, and he lacks the decision-making chops to contribute in a complex role. He is a spot-up shooter, and not a very good one.

In the future, one can expect Thybulle to improve — at least around the edges. He may never be a truly good offensive player, but at some point, he needs to ascend from actively harmful to passively average.

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Thybulle’s defense, while loaded with potential and easy on the eyes, does not currently make up for his offensive shortcomings. He’s a spark-plug reserve who can elevate an entire defense in stretches, but he has equally as many stretches of total inadequacy.

Again, this is not an indictment on Thybulle, the prospect. He was a draft night steal — one of Elton Brand‘s most successful acquisitions to date. He will get minutes in Philadelphia for a long, long time.

This is about the present, and there’s a reason Thybulle has averaged only 15.4 minutes over his last 10 games. The Sixers need shooting and playmaking, two areas where Thybulle struggles. Until he takes the next step, either as a shooter or to truly elite defensive status, he loses priority in the rotation.

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All this is to say one simple thing: Thybulle will not get major minutes in the postseason, and it’s the right decision on Brown’s part. Shake Milton, Alec Burks, and Glenn Robinson III are all more ready to contribute. And that’s fine. Thybulle is a rookie. Rookies need patience.