3 burning questions involving Sixers standout rookie Matisse Thybulle


GM Elton Brand told the media ahead of the 2019 draft that he was targeting players that were older and experienced. Little did we know, he was targeting a specific player that fit that criteria.

Matisse Thybulle didn’t have pre-draft workouts with NBA teams, which made it seem like a team had “promised” him. After the Sixers made a trade with the Celtics to move up and select the Washington wing, it seemed clear the Sixers were that team.

All Thybulle has done is lead all rookies in steals and flash serious 3-and-D potential in his first NBA season.

With the re-airing of one of Thybulle's finest games this week on NBC Sports Philadelphia, we look at three burning questions surrounding the standout rookie. 

How big of a hit was Thybulle?

Clearly, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were tremendous hits, but neither player suited up during their draft year. Landry Shamet had a strong start to his rookie campaign last year but was traded to the Clippers. Michael Carter-Williams and Jahlil Okafor put up numbers on tanking teams.

So, who was the last Sixer to be a regular rotation player throughout his draft year on a winning team?

Both Lavoy Allen and Nikola Vucevic competed for minutes in 2011-12 but neither was a fixture in Doug Collins’ rotation — though it’s fair to argue Vucevic probably should’ve been.

The last player to fit these criteria is Andre Iguodala in 2004-05. Iguodala started all 82 games for a team that finished 43-39 before being dropped in the first round by the Pistons.

For a team that’s been so unlucky with draft picks in recent years, this seems fairly significant.

Should he make the All-Rookie Team?

If there were an All-Defensive version of the All-Rookie Team, Thybulle would be an easy pick. With the overall picture, it may not be a slam dunk.

Ja Morant is likely the Rookie of the Year and a shoo-in for the first team. Zion Williamson played in just 19 games, but since he was so impactful in that short time, he should make it. Kendrick Nunn, Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke would round out that team for me.

But there should be room for Thybulle on the second team with the likes of R.J. Barrett, P.J. Washington, Eric Paschall and someone like De’Andre Hunter or Darius Garland.

Williamson and Clarke are the only rookies that can claim they’ve had near the impact on the defensive end that Thybulle has had. Thybulle leads all rookies in steals with 90, 18 more than Cam Reddish, who played over 400 more minutes than Thybulle this season. He’s fifth in blocks with 40, which was the high mark among rookie wings. He was also often tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter player.

And he did all that for a winning team.

Could he be a sweetener to get rid of Horford’s contract?

This is a question a lot of Sixers fans won’t love, but this could be the reality Brand sees himself in this offseason.

Barring a run when/if the playoffs happen, the Al Horford signing doesn’t look good. His fit next to Embiid has not gone as Brand would’ve hoped. Horford will enter next season at 34 years old with three years and a lot of money left on his deal.

There could be a team out there that has a need at the five and just views Horford as simply a bad fit with the Sixers. But would they want to take on the rest of that contract? Seems more hopeful than realistic.

So, should Brand dangle Thybulle out there as a sweetener? To me, it would have to be for a player that’s at or near an All-Star level that fills an immediate need as a shot creator and scorer. 

If that player isn’t out there, Thybulle is a player you hang on to. Getting off of Horford’s contract should be a priority, but if it costs you Thybulle and you get little in return, it’s not worth it. Thybulle has All-Defensive Team if not Defensive Player of the Year potential.

If his shot continues to evolve, he’s the type of 3-and-D wing every team covets — which is why Brand went through all that trouble to get him in the first place.

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