The Philadelphia 76ers don’t begin their 2021-22 campaign until October 20, so it’s still a while until Sixers basketball is back. In the meantime, now that this year’s main offseason activity has wound down, I thought it would be a good time to bring back this series, Sixers Film Fix.
If you missed it last year, it’s a simple series of video highlights and breakdowns of all things Sixers while we’re missing the NBA. It could be anything, from the best passes of Ben Simmons’ career to why Danny Green is so effective with his signature baseline cut (which I’ll be covering soon). So, let’s get started with this episode, featuring a look back at Joel Embiid’s growth as a jump shooter last season and some of Matisse Thybulle’s best steals.
Apart from just shooting at a higher percentage from mid-range and shooting a career-high 37.7 percent from three, Embiid was far more comfortable than ever using his face-up jumper and firing off the dribble. Doc Rivers and his coaching staff utilized Embiid far more in the middle of the court in their “Delay” actions rather than keeping him stationed with his back to the basket in the post as much. This let Embiid face up and attack opponents head on more than he used to, and his polished jumper (especially off the dribble) was one of the key ways he developed as a player.
Joel Embiid becoming an elite mid-range shooter last season was huge for his isolation and face-up play.— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) August 28, 2021
His footwork, handle, touch, and pull-up jumper at his size is so impressive. pic.twitter.com/aAnutId8CR
Embiid ranked 3rd in the NBA in made mid-range jumpers per game last season at 2.7, hitting them at an elite rate of 49.1 percent — this placed him 6th out of 34 players who attempted at least 3 such shots per game, just behind Kevin Durant at 50.6 percent. When looking at all of Embiid’s jump shots off the dribble in the half court, he ranked in the 74th percentile, scoring 1.013 points per possession — an extremely impressive number for a 7’0” center who has always thrived when bullying opponents inside.
This development also helps open up extra driving opportunities for Embiid. Opponents can’t live with giving him one or two feet of space to encourage him to shoot. If you give him breathing room, then he’s making his face-up and pull-up jumpers. And if you play him too closely, he can power past you or draw contact to generate more free throw attempts than anyone else (he averaged a league-best 10.7 per game last season).
One way or another, against single or double coverage (which is where his improved passing also comes into play), Embiid can toy with defenders.
To finish, let’s go to Matisse Thybulle and his absurd steal rate. In 20 minutes per game last season, he averaged a career-high 1.6 steals. Per 36 minutes, he led the NBA with ridiculous averages of 2.9 steals and 5.6 deflections (among players who played at least 100 minutes).
A video of his best steals could easily be far longer, but here are some of the highlights:
Matisse Thybulle averaged 1.6 steals in only 20 minutes per game in 2020-21, and ranked 1st in steals per 36 minutes with 2.9.— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) August 29, 2021
He's such a brilliant defender both on and off the ball. Here are some of his best steals of the season: pic.twitter.com/bGQnMWXFwY
Thybulle absolutely deserved his All-Defensive Second Team honor last season. Even in just 20 minutes a night, he was one of the most disruptive defenders in the entire league. It’s pretty much impossible for a perimeter defender to be more impactful than Thybulle when he’s at his best, smothering players on the ball or flying around off ball to wreak havoc. His elite combination of length, speed, instincts, timing, and effort is truly remarkable. Furthermore, Thybulle’s on-ball defense was sharper than his rookie year, he was somehow an even more disruptive defensive playmaker (averaging 2.9 steals and 2 blocks per 36 minutes, up from 2.6 and 1.3, respectively, as a rookie), and he became a more disciplined defender in general by committing fewer ill advised gambles and fouls.
If (when) Ben Simmons is traded, it will be easier for the Sixers to increase Thybulle’s minutes with fewer non floor spacers, and his defense will become even more valuable than it already is.
If there are any specific things you’d like to see highlighted in the next episode of this series, just comment below.