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It’s make-or-break time for Matisse Thybulle, and he’s all in on improving that jumper

Matisse Thybulle says he’s had his first full offseason to focus on improving his game, and he’s put the focus squarely on that jump shot.

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The way some of Sixers Twitter reacted to about-to-be fourth year wing Matisse Thybulle winning his second All-Defensive Second Team honor last May, you’d have thought it was some ignominious distinction.

It was announced a week after the Sixers were bounced by Jimmy Butler’s Heat from the playoffs. It was still just a matter of weeks after fans learned the Arizona native couldn’t play up in Toronto during round one due to his partial vaccination status. And many fans were down on the Washington product over that and his subsequent playoff performance.

(Sometimes I wonder...if only he’d opted for one dose of the J&J vax, instead of one of two mRNA doses, who knows how differently things may have played out for him. Might he have gone to Toronto, played with more confidence, and earned himself an extension? Did he even think of this stuff when he picked a pharmaceutical brand?)

Both ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and (now) Yahoo’s Jake Fischer noted that Daryl Morey dangled Thybulle this offseason in trade offers.

We can be reasonably certain he was offered for Houston’s Eric Gordon at one point in June, giving him two near misses of landing in Houston now; the first time Morey tried packaging him with Ben Simmons for James Harden back in January of 2021.

Thybulle averaged 5.7 points, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks per game while shooting 31.3 percent from distance last season. In the playoffs, things took a turn for the worse though, as he was demoted to bench duty due to that aforementioned vaccination status. He admitted to losing confidence when that happened, and shot just 29 percent from deep this postseason. He’s now shot 31 percent from three in 25 career playoff games.

By round two, it was clear he was a liability on the offensive end because the Miami Heat ignored him, as he either turned down open shots or bricked them, allowing several Heat wings to swarm both James Harden and Joel Embiid at all times.

So all in all, this is a monster season for Matisse. Like make or break. He didn’t receive a contract extension from the Sixers this offseason. He can test the water as a free agent next summer.

Every team in the NBA would love what he brings on the defensive end.

But few contenders would feel comfortable deploying him regular rotation minutes in a Conference Finals if he shoots as poorly as he has moving forward. (If you had Steph Curry and Klay Thompson running around it would work).

So where was his focus this offseason? He was characteristically candid at Sixers media day earlier this week.

“A lot of it was shooting, shooting-related,” Thybulle said. “Mostly just working on myself offensively,” he continued, “whether that’s the ball handling in the open court or corner threes, and just catch-and-shoot (and) doing things off the move.”

Is he changing his form? He has had a tendency to flare his shooting elbow out, and a couple other mechanical issues.

“Some of the things are hard to explain or really quantify,” Thybulle said, “but I guess you could say just condensing my shot down — getting rid of wasted movement, which allows for more accuracy and consistency.”

Here’s a bit of the wasted motion he might mean:

It’s been noted that Matisse didn’t have as much time during offseasons in the past as he did this summer.

“I didn’t really have a chance to work on myself the last two offseasons. The first one was COVID and there were no (available) gyms. The second one, I was working to win a medal at the Olympics with Australia, so there wasn’t a lot of space for me to just work on Matisse. So this was my first chance to have a whole offseason — a real, traditional offseason — and dedicate it solely to improving myself.”

Critics will hear that as a convenient excuse. Fans may feel some renewed optimism that things might change. For his entire career, he’s shot just 32.4 percent from distance. He’s just 33 percent (70 of 210) from the corners since his rookie season. That’s not going to cut it, so he’s going to have to get a lot more comfy from the corner office or he may find himself out of the rotation altogether.

One guy who might absorb some of his minutes is newcomer De’Anthony Melton (a career 37.5 percent three point shooter). Thybulle was asked about that addition Monday.

“You know what’s funny? If you ask [Melton] he would tell you that I stole the Defensive Player of the Year award from him in college. (Laughs) I stand by the fact that I deserved it. But he’s been doing this for a long time. We’ve been playing against each other for a while now, so I’ve been able to see his evolution, but then also just see his ability,” Thybulle said.

Doc Rivers didn’t play Danny Green, the guy Melton is basically replacing, alongside Thybulle often. So it’ll be a bit of a surprise if we see much Matisse-Melton all-havoc lineups. But it would certainly be intriguing to test run.

If Thybulle could just hit 37 out of 100 from the corners on average he’d be an extremely valuable (and rich) player. So what’s Thybulle’s personal goal as a shooter?

“Yeah, I would like to hit 100 percent of my shots this season. (Laughs.) At this point, it’s like, I’ve done the work. It’s just a matter of seeing where the cards fall, seeing how it all plays out now. I’ve made the progress, I’ve put in the work, I’ve got up the reps, and now it’s a matter of seeing how it manifests throughout the season. I’ll go in with the intention of making every single one and will most definitely be disappointed in that, but making sure that I see growth (from) where I was last year is all that really matters.”

Doc Rivers can back him up.

“Between [Tyrese Maxey] and Paul Reed and Matisse,” Rivers said, “no one has outworked those three guys, I can guarantee you that.”

So we’ll see where the cards, and the corner threes fall. Preseason begins this coming Monday.

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