This is a critical season for Matisse Thybulle

This is a critical season for Matisse Thybulle

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be profiling every player currently on the Sixers‘ roster ahead of training camp, which begins on Sept. 27.

Matisse Thybulle

Age: 25

Contract status: $4.3 million for 2022-23; restricted free agent for 2023-24 ($6.2 million qualifying offer)

The next normal NBA season for Matisse Thybulle will be the first. His rookie year was interrupted by a global pandemic. His second season ended in bizarre fashion as the recipient of Ben Simmons’ infamous pass and the offender of an ill-advised foul with 54 seconds left in Game 7 against the Hawks. Last season, he appeared to find his groove in the starting lineup with the arrival of James Harden, but then struggled once he lost his spot to Danny Green because of his vaccination status.

Let’s start with the positives. Thybulle has been named an All-NBA defender in each of the last two seasons as a reserve. He was tops in the NBA in steal percentage, second in block percentage among perimeter defenders and third in defensive box plus/minus. Thybulle has mostly proven himself to be an outstanding defender at the NBA level. His performance against Steph Curry was one of the best displays we’d seen against the future HOFer.

The downside is that we are three seasons into Thybulle’s NBA career and he has yet to prove that he can be a viable offensive threat, especially in the postseason. After hitting 35.7 percent of his threes as a rookie, Thybulle has hit just 30.7 percent of his attempts from deep since. There are areas where Thybulle has improved. He shot over 50 percent from the field overall (67.3 on twos) for the first time and hit nearly 80 percent of his free throws.

Thybulle did seem to thrive more as a cutter and lane filler in transition, especially after Harden’s arrival. In the 21 games after Harden’s debut, Thybulle averaged 6.1 points on 51.1/38.9/90 shooting splits. The Beard also allowed Thybulle to add a new wrinkle to his offensive game as a screener and roller.

Once Thybulle was forced to sit out a late regular-season game in Toronto because he wasn’t vaccinated, that’s where his trouble seemed to start. With it appearing like the Raptors would be the Sixers’ first-round opponent, Doc Rivers opted to keep Green in the starting lineup for continuity purposes. Whether it was a mental block or rhythm issue, it seemed to hurt Thybulle. Once again in the postseason, Thybulle’s offensive deficiencies far outweighed his defensive prowess.

Season outlook: Thybulle has had a rotation spot since his first NBA game. It doesn’t seem like he’s a lock for one to start the season. PJ Tucker will slide into the fifth starter spot. Newcomers De’Anthony Melton and Danuel House Jr. look like locks for bench roles — Melton sort of being a version of Thybulle that offers much more offensively. Georges Niang and Montrezl Harrell will be the other members of Doc’s infamous all-bench unit, leaving one spot open.

As of now, Thybulle might be the front-runner, but he’ll face plenty of competition. Furkan Korkmaz, Shake Milton and Isaiah Joe (maybe Trevelin Queen?) will all likely push for that 10th spot in Rivers’ rotation. We’ve gotten word that Thybulle has been putting in a lot of work to improve his offensive game this summer, but the proof is always in the pudding.

Complicated matters is Thybulle’s contract status. He’s entering the final year of his rookie deal and is eligible for an extension. Given the volatility of Thybulle’s play, it’s hard to envision what his next contract will look like. The Sixers would have the right to match any offer this coming offseason. How his offensive game develops and how he fits into the new-look rotation could go a long way in determining his future with the Sixers. This season is critical for Thybulle in so many ways.

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