Matisse Thybulle has developed into one of the best perimeter defenders in the entire NBA. It isn’t too common that you see players being named to an All-Defensive team in their second year — something that Thybulle accomplished last season. Unfortunately, Thybulle’s offense (or lack there of) has kept him from logging major minutes on a reliable basis for his first two years.
This season we’ve seen a lot more of Thybulle, who is logging a career-high in minutes per game (26). A lot of this can be attributed to two different things: Ben Simmons, their best perimeter defender, not being around, along with Danny Green’s multiple injuries. Both of these factors have thrusted Thybulle into his largest role yet as the Sixers lack defense and athleticism on the perimeter.
Thybulle’s newfound expanded role has led to the Sixers experimenting with ways to keep him on the floor. His offensive game has been extremely limited in the past, mainly shooting standstill perimeter jumpers. Unfortunately, we’ve seen Thybulle’s three-point shot continue to regress with time going from 35.7 percent in his rookie year, to 30.1 percent last season, to 27.7 percent this season.
The key for the Sixers has always been providing ample spacing around Joel Embiid. Thybulle hasn’t provided much of that this season, which has led to them utilizing him in ways we haven’t seen before.
This season Doc Rivers has opted to use Thybulle in the dunker spot, a place where Simmons would usually operate. This hasn’t been much of an option in the past since the Sixers were playing with a point guard that refused to shoot open jumpers. Since Simmons isn’t around it’s allowed the Sixers to “hide” Thybulle on offense there, which has led to surprisingly good results thus far.
Thybulle’s efficiency from the field has skyrocketed this year, mainly due to his shots around the basketball. So far he’s averaging 47.8 percent from the field, which is really solid for a guard or forward. If you subtract his three-point attempts and that number goes up even higher, at 69.2 percent on all two-point attempts. Thybulle doesn’t operate in the mid-range, like at all, and you can see just how efficient he’s been on his shot chart provided by NBA.com/stats:
Thybulle’s shooting in the paint is good compared to nearly every other area of the court. He’s shooting 74.6 percent in that area on a healthy number of attempts. When he gets the ball around the rim he’s good at converting.
There’s also been improvement on cutting to the rim. Thybulle and Embiid have developed some serious chemistry in this area. The majority of the time the other team will double off of Thybulle to throw two defenders at Embiid. Thybulle is able to recognize this much more, and instead of settling for a jumper you’ll often find him slashing to the rim — which typically forces someone else to switch onto him. The shooting percentages showcase just how much of a better shot it is for Thybulle to attempt it at the rim compared to most perimeter areas.
Joel Embiid has started developing some nice chemistry with Matisse Thybulle in the dunker spot recently.— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) January 11, 2022
Thybulle is staying active and finishing well when guys help off him, and Embiid is finding him pretty consistently. pic.twitter.com/NlCEjm8BRy
Thybulle’s development with shooting will always be crucial to him and his career, as it’s really the only thing separating him from getting major playing time. Until that time comes, the adjustments made by the Sixers have allowed him to have an efficiency renaissance offensively. Doubling Embiid off of Thybulle has been much more dangerous than ever.
We’ve even seen the Sixers miss Thybulle offensively (talk about a sentence I never thought I would type) in the past few games where he was out with a shoulder sprain. They tried to have two-way player Charlie Brown Jr. fill the role, but he just didn’t have the finishing ability that Thybulle has. The utilization of Thybulle around the rim is promising, and it’s what may lead him to getting more minutes in the near future. Let’s hope that a reliable perimeter jumper is next on the list of things to expect from his development.