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The three types of Matisse Thybulle steals

2020 NBA Restart - All Access Practice Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Last week, we kicked off our 3 Clips series featuring Shake Milton doing fun guard things on the basketball court. This week, we continue our 3 Clips with Matisse Thybulle and the three types of Matisse steals.

One of the biggest story lines of the season for the Philadelphia 76ers in 2019-2020 is/was Matisse Thybulle’s electrifying play on the defensive end, collecting 80 steals in just 57 games. The rookie came out of the gate like a seasoned vet, prompting Jeff Van Gundy to remark on national television that in all his years of coaching, he had never seen a rookie play perimeter defense like Thybulle. Today, we’ll take a look at what makes Thybulle such an impactful and disruptive defender and how he’s able to produce such a high amount of takeaways.

No. 1: The Free Safety

Like a free safety baiting a quarterback to throw a pass deep over the middle, these are plays in which Matisse knows exactly where the ball handler wants to go with a pass and dares them to try.

Rather than cutting off the pass entirely and forcing a new decision, Thybulle often gambles. Fortunately for the Sixers, he’s got the agility, length and range to walk the walk. And like Ed Reed pouncing on a poor decision on his way to six points, Thybulle’s interceptions frequently lead to open floor dunks.

No. 2: The Wrap Around

This has to be one of Matisse’s most frustrating (for the opposition) methods of poking the ball free. In most cases when a ball handler’s back is between the ball and their defender, the handler can feel pretty secure. They’ve either beat the defender off the dribble and are heading downhill or are patiently backing down the defender while keeping the rock at a safe distance. Rarely the case when Thybulle is on-ball on defense.

Matisse uses his long limbs to go around the backs of opponents and nudge the ball loose.

In addition to Thybulle’s elastic arms, his keen sense of timing makes these steals possible. He’s not just flailing around, hoping something pops out. He’s got the hands of a methodical boxer, inviting a mistake and slipping in a jab the moment it occurs.

Warning to point guards across the NBA: when you beat Matisse Thybulle off the dribble, you haven’t actually beat Matisse Thybulle.

No. 3: The Blow Up

Thybulle’s skill set produces some freakishly impressive plays for a highlight real. But one of the funnest aspects of watching Matisse play basketball is the intensity he brings on the defensive end. He takes nothing for granted. It’s this no-holds-barred mentality that enables him to frequently blow up what should be one of the easier ways to transfer a ball to a teammate: the hand off.

These three types of steals are certainly not the only way Matisse forces turnovers. He’ll pick up your typical 50/50 ball, snatch from a loose handle, or get lucky sticking his hand in a passing lane. But it is the reliability of the above video examples that makes Thybulle’s production so impressive. He’s not lucking into steals, he’s actively plotting them. I mentioned that Thybulle likes to gamble, but he’s less of a gambler and much more of a shark.


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