The Sixers have a lot of important decisions to make this offseason. What does James Harden’s next contract look like? Should Daryl Morey take another big swing, or focus on building out the supporting cast? And, at some point, we have to start questioning Matisse Thybulle‘s future with the team.
No player disappointed quite like Matisse Thybulle did in the playoffs. Not only did he miss pivotal games in the first round because of his decision to remain unvaccinated, but when he did play, he was consistently underwhelming. Toronto and Miami are two long, versatile defenses, and Thybulle simply could not survive on the offensive end.
The 25-year-old now enters the fourth and final season of his rookie contract, worth $4.37 million. That’s a palatable number for one of the best perimeter defenders in basketball, but Thybulle becomes a restricted free agent next summer. His ultimate payday will depend on his performance in 2022-23, but it’s fair to question whether or not the Sixers should pay a one-way player who does not complement the team’s stars.
It’s time for the Sixers to consider trading Matisse Thybulle
Thybulle can change the shape of games with his defense. No player in the NBA is so singularly disruptive. When locked in, Thybulle can smother opposing ball-handlers and completely close off passing lanes. He has real Defensive Player of the Year potential, which makes his complete inadequacy on the other end so maddening.
He will always have a spot in the league. Thybulle’s defense is too good. Someone will probably pay him and bank on the 3-point shot improving. The Sixers, however, are uniquely in need of shooters in the supporting cast. With Joel Embiid commanding more post touches than any player in the NBA, it’s hard to justify playing a non-shooter next to him in big moments. Philadelphia really invested in Thybulle’s development this season — he started games, closed a good amount of them, and was consistently relied upon — but when the rubber met the road, he wasn’t good enough in the playoffs. He was the Sixers’ least reliable reserve on the biggest stage, and the team consistently lost his minutes.
The Sixers should consider moving off of Thybulle while his value is still high. If it’s still high. Teams will not ignore his complete no-show in the playoffs, but he’s still young enough to justify optimism. His length, athleticism, and enthusiastic attitude will no doubt enamor many front offices.
I personally have my doubts about Thybulle long term. He’s not just an inconsistent shooter; he has zero discernible touch on his shot. At the rim, on floaters, behind the 3-point line, it doesn’t matter. The one positive indicator is his respectable free throw percentage (79.1), but that comes on such low volume that it’s hard to take seriously in the context of his overall shooting profile.
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Right now, there’s simply no reason for defenses to guard Thybulle outside of five feet. A wide-open Thybulle 3-pointer is a great outcome for the opposing defense. That has to change if he ever wants to be a regular NBA starter who can survive in the playoffs. The defense is otherworldly, but there’s a reason Defensive Player of the Year is not the MVP award. You have to contribute on offense to be truly great in the NBA.
Thybulle did show some promise as a cutter and working out of the dunker’s spot last season. Especially after James Harden’s arrival. Teams who don’t run offense through the post can better hide Thybulle’s particular brand of non-shooting, but the Sixers are the worst possible fit. The goal should be to keep as much shooting around Embiid and Harden as possible, especially with the former becoming so good at passing out of traffic. You need players who can take advantage of the rotating defense, and Thybulle can do no such thing.
Another season of complete incompetence behind the 3-point line would probably tank Thybulle’s trade value. And, while it may also tank his contract value in future negotiations, the Sixers have to be wary of paying a player in his mid-20s who does nothing of consistent value on offense. A team should be willing to bet on Thybulle’s defense, but I’m not sure Philly in that team.