Sixers: Projecting the 2022-23 starting five and bench unit

James Harden, P.J. Tucker, Sixers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
James Harden, P.J. Tucker, Sixers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
3 of 10
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Sixers starting small forward: Matisse Thybulle

There’s a strong case for Danuel House Jr. or P.J. Tucker, but the Sixers will probably run it back. Matisse Thybulle was the starter for virtually all of last season, and only lost the job when he wasn’t vaccinated and was subsequently unavailable in the postseason.

Thybulle’s complete lack of offensive skill is a problem. He got better as a cutter last season, especially after Harden’s arrival, but he’s still not a floor spacer, and he still can’t dribble or make quick decisions on the move. The Sixers were straight-up better without Thybulle when games started to count, but he’s relatively young (25 years old) and the Sixers are invested in his development. Or, at least the development of his trade value ahead of the February deadline (and Thybulle’s looming extension).

Obviously, there’s plenty of good to Thybulle’s game as well. He’s a truly singular playmaker on the defensive end, with the potential to lead the league in steals from the bench while blocking more shots than his team’s (very good) primary rim protector. Thybulle’s suction-cup defense off the ball and smothering on-ball presence has already earned him two All-Defense nominations in three NBA seasons. That hardly ever happens. The Sixers do need a proper stopper on the perimeter.

Thybulle’s Sixers tenure feels like it’s nearing the end. He’s just not a good fit offensively for a team built around Joel Embiid’s post-up presence. That said, he is one of the best defenders in the NBA — period. That could be enough to justify starting him and hoping the jumper comes around.