Sixers Could Lose Defensive Ace in Free Agency in Latest Projections

Matisse Thybulle Philadelphia 76ers

Getty Matisse Thybulle #22 of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Joel Embiid issued a strong expectation of the Philadelphia 76ers during his first presser of the season at media day two weeks ago. The former Kansas Jayhawk wants the Sixers to have the best defense in the entire league.

[W]e know what we have to do, and then for us our focus is on defense. We aim to be the best defensive team in the league. And that’s going to take all of us,” Embiid said.

The Sixers have the tools to trot out a strong defensive team. PJ Tucker is as pesky a defender as any entering his age-37 season. De’Anthony Melton and Matisse Thybulle are tenacious, with the latter coming off a second All-Defense honor last year. Even Paul Reed looks capable of guarding multiple positions for Philadelphia.

But is it possible one of those excellent defenders could see his Sixers career coming to a close this season? In an October 10, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report projected that the Sixers would “wait” on extending Thybulle, whose rookie deal is expiring this season.

“For Thybulle, . . . an extension must be enough to make playing through the year on an expiring contract too risky, but the number needs to be large enough to be worthwhile. [Is he] important enough to [the] franchise for that investment?”

If the Sixers don’t reach an agreement with Thybulle before the summer, the former Washington Huskie would become a restricted free agent, meaning he could sign with any team that makes him an offer that the Sixers don’t match.

Pincus also explained the salary range Thybulle might be looking at for an extension.

Thybulle Deal Could Be in the Two-Year, $13 Million Range 

At Sixers media day two weeks ago, GM Daryl Morey offered a cryptic answer on the prospect of a Thybulle extension.

Morey’s answer was stock, but it was also devoid of any plaudits or praise for the Sixers’ defense star. No “we love Matisse,” “Matisse is an important part of this roster,” no nothing. Just typical Morey keeping his cards close to vest.

But if the Sixers do work an agreement with Thybulle, what might it look like? According to Pincus, something mirroring ex-Brooklyn Net and current Denver Nugget Bruce Brown’s recent deal might get the ball rolling.

“Would Thybulle get more than the two-year, $13.3 million deal Bruce Brown Jr. got from the Denver Nuggets?,” Pincus wrote.

On one hand, paying Thybulle less than $7 million seems like a steal, given his defensive chops. After all, Thybulle is in the top-100th percentile of wings in steals and blocks rate, per Cleaning the Glass. But Thybulle’s defensive brilliance is matched by his offensive nothingness. A strong showing this season could push Thybulle’s salary higher, but it could also price Philadelphia out of his range.

If Thybulle does depart, it begs the question: where could he go?

Where Could Thybulle End Up if Not in Philadelphia?

Thybulle’s game is best suited alongside enough offense that masks Thybulle’s inefficiency on that end of the court. It’s also worth noting that Thybulle isn’t yet 26, meaning there’s still time for him to generate more of his game.

Thus a young, offense-heavy team (with some salary room) might be a great fit for Thybulle. Take the rebuilding Detroit Pistons, for example. The team has already been linked to defensively stout yet offensively challenged Draymond Green this summer. Pairing Thybulle with a Cade Cunningham-Jaden Ivey backcourt could mask his offensive issues. The Pistons should also have plenty of cash next summer, with the league’s fifth-lowest salary sheet, per Spotrac.

Don’t expext Morey to let Thybulle depart for nothing. If it comes to it, the Sixers could look into a sign-and-trade with interested teams, allowing Philadelphia to recoup something to offset Thybulle’s departure.

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