Matisse Thybulle
Is Matisse Thybulle the best defender in the NBA? Even as a rookie, Thybulle has a legit case to win defensive player of the year. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Does Matisse Thybulle have a real argument to win defensive player of the year? Thybulle is never going to be a good offensive player. He also doesn’t need to be. In Philadelphia, Thybulle is becoming an instant contributor for the 76ers. Even as a rookie, Thybulle is one of the most feared defenders in the league. In a league full of weak defenders, Thybulle is an oddity. Thybulle could be closing on the defensive player of the year and many more to come.

Thybulle will never be a great offensive player. The 76ers are 4.4 points worse per 100 possessions with him on the floor. He’s also turning into one of those guys where it doesn’t really matter. He has become the Celtics version of Marcus Smart. Except more soft spoken but a lot longer.

It’s not all down on the offensive end. Thybulle is splashing 39.4 percent on catch-and-shoot threes and also shooting 51 percent on corner threes. On a team that lacks shooting, Thybulle’s ability to knock down open shots is imperative. Ben Simmons will create those opportunities for him. His ability to hit open shots creates a pathway to him becoming a real offensive player in the future.

Thybulle’s defensive prowess is what got him drafted in the first round. The former University of Washington wing is listed at 6-foot-5 but has a 7-foot wingspan. It’s noticeable on the floor.

Some of the best guards in the East have had a really tough time scoring against Thybulle. He posts an impressive opposing shooting percentage number against any player you pick.

Kemba Walker:  4/12 FG , 33.3 FG % (usually shoots 44 %)

Joe Harris: 3/8 FG , 27.5 FG % (usually shoots 46 %)

Zach Lavine: 2/7 FG, 28.6 FG% (usually shoots 44.3 %)

Kyle Lowry: 0/6 FG , 0 FG% (usually shoots 41 %)

Trae Young: 2/7 FG, 28.6 FG % (usually shoots 44.7 %)

Averaging 1.5 steals per game is no joke. Especially when you’re doing it in 20 minutes per game. Since he was inserted in the starting lineup, Thybulle has been averaging 2.7 steals and 1.7 blocks per contest. You won’t find better steal numbers across the league than that. In games he starts, Thybulle has a defensive rating of 94.6. On the season, the 76ers wing has held opponents to 38.6 percent shooting.

Matisse isn’t the quickest guy in the world, but his length and instincts are a problem.

It’s impressive for a rookie to be able to do this. Speaking of rookies, this is what got drafted in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft. It’s way too early to declare a winner in the Thybulle trade. Boston originally drafted Matisse Thybulle with the 20th pick. They moved down 4 spots to grab Grant Williams and Carsen Edwards.

I was critical of Philly’s decision to basically let everybody and their mother know that they wanted Thybulle. Danny Ainge seemed to take advantage of them just like a couple of years earlier. Philadelphia wanted another player from the University of Washington. That one seemed to work out well for Boston. Why would this be any different?

Time will tell if Matisse Thybulle is better than the combo of both Grant Williams and Carsen Edwards. Williams is showing some great potential himself. The bigger mistake by Boston (so far) was drafting Romeo Langford 16th. Interestingly enough, that was the pick handed over by Philly in the Markelle Fultz trade.

What we do know is Thybulle is a winning player. He’s going to end up making it. Philadelphia is 24-5 when Thybulle plays at least 14 minutes a game. When Thybulle either doesn’t play or plays fewer than 14 minutes a game, the 76ers are 7-10. You can see that Marcus Smart winning DNA with Thybulle. He also plays real defense. Elton Brand got this one right.

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