Doc Rivers Opens Up on Defensive Ace’s Lack of Playing Time

Doc Rivers, Sixers

Getty Head coach Doc Rivers of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts during the third quarter against the Charlotte Hornets at Wells Fargo Center on October 12, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Adding depth to the roster was at the top of the priority list this offseason and Daryl Morey accomplished this goal. While the added depth is a major benefit to the team overall, it also leaves some rotation players on the outside looking in. Neither Shake Milton nor Furkan Korkmaz has received any time on the court through the first two games. Even more surprising is that Matisse Thybulle has played a total of just 42 seconds of gameplay for the Sixers through the first two games.

Following the Sixers’ loss to the Bucks, Doc Rivers was asked about this decision. The head coach downplayed this concept and stated, “It’s a pecking order right now, but he’s working his butt off and he’ll play. He’ll get a chance to earn more minutes at some point for sure, but right now Danuel House and the De’Anthony (Melton) are in front of him. We’re going with a smaller rotation, but he’ll have a chance to earn minutes at some point,” per Ky Carlin of SixersWire.

Thybulle’s Offseason Work:

The work that Thybulle has put in on his game this offseason was a major storyline. It is a massive year for the 25-year-old. He is entering the final year of his rookie contract and will be seeking either an extension or a notable free-agent offer from another team. The Sixers and Thybulle failed to reach a contract extension prior to the season. At one point Thybulle was regarded as one of the premiere three-and-D rotation players across the NBA, but his lack of shooting progression has slowed this momentum.

As a rookie, Thybulle shot 35.7% on three-point attempts while attempting 2.4 long-range attempts per game. Last season, despite playing 5.7 more minutes per game, Thybulle shot just 31.3% on three-pointers and attempted just 2.2 perimeter attempts per game. The lack of respect he commands from the opposing defense has caused issues on the court, especially in the postseason.

In the defense of Thybulle, everyone in the organization has raved about his off-season work ethic. He spent time working with Dame Lillard and DeMar DeRozan this offseason as well as famed NBA shooting coach Phil Beckner. Thybulle also has been seen taking to the court for extra shots before and after games already this season.

When Will Thybulle’s Opportunity Come?

While most expected the added depth to result in more lineup experimentation from Doc Rivers, this has not been the case through the first two games. As a team, the Sixers have played 96 total game minutes so far this year. Each of the five starters has tallied 68 or more minutes with James Harden leading the way with 78 minutes on the court.

It is clear that Danuel House Jr and De’Anthony Melton are at the top of the bench rotation as they have logged 37 and 40 minutes off the bench so far this season. No other player has played more than 20 total minutes thus far, but Georges Niang, Montrezl Harrell, and Paul Reed have each seen more minutes than Thybulle.

It has been frustrating for Thybulle who has already earned two All-NBA Defensive Second-Team nominations in his career. His freakish defensive abilities will make him an important option in certain matchups. The eye-popping abilities he possesses on the defensive side of the ball will earn him an opportunity at some point and if Thybulle connects on a few shots the door could open for him to earn a larger role. Unfortunately for the defensive ace, he will have to wait for this opportunity to arise.

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