We knew the Sixers had something to build upon with Matisse Thybulle after witnessing his rookie season, which was largely labeled a success. Thybulle not only managed to make his way into the Sixers’ rotation, but he also became a huge part of it. It isn’t often in the NBA that you see mid-to late-first-round draft picks becoming positive rotation players during their rookie year.
What most people didn’t know is how transcendent Matisse Thybulle is and can be going forward. He was always labeled as a high-floor, low-ceiling type of player — meaning that most expected him to become a quality role player with little room to grow into. While Thybulle’s offensive game still needs some polishing, we’ve witnessed a historic defensive season from him in only his sophomore year.
When breaking down Thybulle’s defense, he always passes the eye test. Ranging from his play within the passing lanes to coming up with blocks off of opponent’s jump shots, Matisse Thybulle truly does it all defensively. While these are certainly impressive in-the-moment plays and a joy to watch, it truly doesn’t do Thybulle justice for just how impactful he has been this season for the Sixers. To truly appreciate this, you have to dive into the stats and compare him to past defensive talents.
Yet another defensive highlight of Matisse Thybulle. Booker beat him off the dribble and he still somehow managed to makeup so much ground and get the block. All-Defensive team level stuff: pic.twitter.com/uWTUPsox39— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) April 22, 2021
Matisse Thybulle has put together a a steal percentage of 3.7% over the span of his Sixers career. A lot of people can get confused with advanced stats pretty easily, so the best way to put this into perspective is in comparison to another Sixers great — Mo Cheeks, who is the current Sixers’ franchise leader in steals. Cheeks averaged a steal percentage of 3.2% over the span of his Sixers tenure. A 0.5% difference is a pretty large gap, especially when you take into consideration how well-regarded Mo Cheeks was as a perimeter defender.
Part of Matisse Thybulle’s growth as a defensive talent has been impressive blocks from all over the court. It’s no surprise that he is considered to be an incredible shot blocker, despite only being listed at 6-foot-5. When factoring both steal and block percentage, Thybulle will have back-to-back seasons averaging north of 3% from each category. To put into perspective how impressive this, here’s a list of players that have achieved that feat in seasons prior, via Basketball Reference:
You’re in great company if you’re being mentioned alongside greats such as David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Bobby Jones. It’s even more impressive when you realize that Matisse Thybulle is much shorter than all of the players listed above.
While many people will point to Thybulle’s offensive game (or lack there of), it’s important to appreciate how much of a game changer he is defensively. He’s managed to improve on his steals and shot blocking by a wide margin in comparison to his rookie season. The improved quantity of defensive stats hasn’t hurt Thybulle at all either, who is averaging fewer turnovers and fouls than his rookie season. He’s been playing defense smarter and better in many regards. Thybulle is also the league leader in blocked jump shots — a skill we’ve seen showcased a lot.
Absolutely massive block in the clutch from Matisse Thybulle. pic.twitter.com/boDiLPGt7L— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) May 3, 2021
Rounding out just some of the impressive defensive stats of Matisse Thybulle is his defensive box plus/minus which is currently ranked at plus-3.7 for his career. To put that into perspective: Manute Bol was the Sixers’ prior career leader in this stat at plus-3.4. Ben Simmons, who is regarded as a finalist for this year’s Defensive Player of the Year award, has a defensive box plus/minus of plus-2.0.
Matisse Thybulle is a consistent jump shot away from being a quality starter in the NBA for many seasons to come. His offensive game is largely the reason why he’s only playing a mere 20 minutes per game, but even the limited playing time hasn’t affected how great Thybulle has been. He’s currently ranked third in the entire NBA in total steals at the time of this writing — achieving a grand total of 105 steals on the season. That’s more than Chris Paul, Draymond Green, Dejounte Murray, or Robert Covington, who are all playing 30 minutes or more per game and are well-regarded defenders.
The Sixers have been a joy to watch this season and have a newly found foundation to build upon with players such as Matisse Thybulle. All of the evidence above supports that the Sixers may have a generational defensive talent in Thybulle who has already accomplished so much in his first two NBA seasons. He’s well deserving of making an All-Defensive NBA team this year and has the makings to possibly be a future Defensive Player of the Year. Without a doubt, Matisse Thybulle has the makings to be a historic NBA defender for years to come.