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Sixers Film Fix: Matisse Thybulle’s best blocks and Tyrese Maxey’s development

2021 NBA Playoffs - Philadelphia 76ers v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

If you’re missing the NBA or simply looking for a distraction from the never-ending Ben Simmons trade buzz, this episode of Sixers Film Fix is going to focus on a couple of the team’s younger players.

First up, some coverage of Matisse Thybulle’s defense. Specifically, the absurd rate and ways in which he picks up blocks. Last season Thybulle averaged 1.1 blocks in just 20 minutes per game — a number that would be fair for a backup rim-protecting center, let alone a wing defender. Thybulle averaged a monstrous 2 blocks per 36 minutes and ranked 19th in the NBA in total blocks for the year at 71, which was well ahead of all other players 6’7” or under (Mikal Bridges came in 2nd with 63, followed by the Sixers’ own Danny Green at 56).

Thybulle improved his already impressive defense as a rookie and established himself as a truly elite talent at that end of the floor, making the All-Defensive Second Team for the first time. He continued to excel with his signature rear contests when trailing ball-handlers, while honing his ability to close out on shooters, smother drivers, and disrupt plays all over the floor while committing fewer fouls and poor gambles. A lot of Thybulle’s most eyebrow-raising blocks are when he’s denying shooters at the arc — his closeout speed, effort, and reach are truly bonkers.

Next, let’s go to Tyrese Maxey, who ended his rookie year on a high after being in and out of the rotation through the middle of the season. Maxey developed in all areas over the last couple of months of the regular season. He drove all the way to the rim more often rather than settling for too many floaters, better utilized his change of pace, sharpened his playmaking, became more comfortable with his jumper, and polished his defense somewhat while making a few Matisse Thybulle-esque rear-view blocks. Maxey’s improved shot profile helped him increase his efficiency, and he generally provided more positive play at both ends of the floor.

(You can read here for a more detailed breakdown of Maxey’s improvements last season.)

As you’d hope to see from such a talented player approaching their second NBA season, Maxey also dominated in Summer League this year. He was the second-leading scorer with 26 points per game to go along with 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2 steals. It’s safe to say he easily looked too good to be taking part. Fortunately for other teams, he departed early after two games for a pre-approved trip to host a youth basketball camp in his hometown of Garland, Texas.

While you obviously can’t put much stock into this setting of play, it’s still encouraging if players are comfortably ahead of their opponents and display signs of progress with specific skills. One promising takeaway for Maxey was the fact that he launched 14 total three-pointers, with many coming off the dribble.

Maxey has been working hard to improve his jumper and ability off the bounce for some time now, and he’s been continuing to do so this offseason. I’m expecting his development to take another clear step forward next season, including a more confident stroke from three-point range.

If you missed the last episode of this series, you can check it out here. And as always, feel free to make suggestions for future episodes in the comments.

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