Sixers: 3 players who could make or break season

Matisse Thybulle, Sixers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Matisse Thybulle, Sixers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Sixers will enter the 2022-23 season with the deepest team of the Joel Embiid era, not to mention James Harden, Tobias Harris, and the always electric Tyrese Maxey. Naturally, the expectations around this team are fairly high. It’s not Finals or bust, but it’s pretty damn close. The fanbase is hungry, and so are the team’s stars.

Embiid is the Sixers’ heart and soul — the team ebbs and flows with him, and any long postseason run would be, at its core, a result of his excellence. That said, it’s also a team game. The Sixers have fallen short on the margins time and time again since Embiid’s arrival, and this summer was an earnest attempt to avoid the same fate.

With multiple new additions and several players expected to take on new roles, here are three names who could determine the Sixers’ fate. Who will step up, and who might fall short?

Sixers’ make or break players: Matisse Thybulle

The general consensus on Matisse Thybulle is lower than it has ever been. A lot of fans are out on the 25-year-old after his disastrous postseason, and reasonably so. You simply cannot survive in the playoffs without some tangible skill on the offensive end. Thybulle is a bad shooter, inept ball-handler, and erratic decision-maker. His athleticism translates to a couple nice cuts and impressive finishes above the rim, but otherwise, he’s a complete blank — a player the opposing defense can outright ignore.

On the flip side, he is one of the most uniquely gifted perimeter defenders the NBA has seen in a minute. His block and steal rates are off the charts, and he has proven capable of shutting down the league’s elite creators one-on-one. He glides effortlessly over screens, phases in and out of passing lanes, and covers ground faster than a gazelle on the run. If he could play more than 20 minutes a night consistently, we might be talking about the future Defensive Player of the Year.

Philadelphia can only wait so long for Thybulle to figure out the offense. The championship window is open right now, and Thybulle has shown no real signs of growth. With P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr. joining the roster, the Sixers now have other quality wing defenders to lean on. Does Thybulle rise to the occasion and lead the charge for an elite perimeter defense, or does he plateau once again and force the Sixers to consider trade options?