Sixers Fail to Reach Contract Extension with Prized Defensive Weapon

Matisse Thybulle, Sixers

Getty Matisse Thybulle #22 of the Philadelphia 76ers blocks Malachi Flynn #22 of the Toronto Raptors during the first quarter of Game Two of the Eastern Conference First Round at Wells Fargo Center on April 18, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Most of the flurry of offseason moves have been completed with the NBA season directly on the horizon. However, the Philadelphia 76ers had a difficult decision to make regarding the contract status of Matisse Thybulle. The two sides failed to reach an extension before the 6 PM EST deadline and he will head into the final year of his contract this season. The 25-year-old will be a restricted free agent at the conclusion of the season, meaning the Sixers will still have a chance to match any offer if they wish to keep him.

What This Means For Thybulle:

Thybulle has been one of the major storylines of the offseason for the Sixers. The former first-round pick has gotten praise for spending so much of the offseason in the gym in an effort to improve his jump shot. He spent time working out with all-stars Dame Lillard and DeMar DeRozan as well as famed NBA shooting coach Phil Beckner.

There are no questions about his abilities on the defensive side of the floor, but his offensive deficiencies have limited his ability to stay on the court. Thybulle primarily served as the fifth starter in the Sixers’ offense and averaged 5.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 1.1 assists, and 1.1 blocks per game last season. He was named to the All-NBA Defensive Second Team for the second time in his career and was the only player in the NBA to average 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks. He also held opponents to just 40.7% shooting when he was the primary defender which was the second-best mark in the NBA.

The three-point shooting will be a major swing factor in his career outlook moving forward. As a rookie during the 2019-20 seasons, Thybulle shot 35.7% on three-pointers while attempting 2.4 long-range shots per game. His three-point percentage dipped to 30.1% in 2020-21 and shot 31.3% from deep last year. There is a notable lack of confidence in his jump shot and, despite playing 5.7 more minutes per game last season, attempted fewer three-pointers than he did as a rookie.

Why it was the Right Decision for the Sixers:

How Thybulle’s career will shake out is still largely to be determined. If he can shoot just league-average from deep (35.4%) he will be among the most elite three-and-D players in the NBA. However, the lack of respect he currently demands from the defense causes spacing issues with Joel Embiid.

There have been plenty of trade rumors surrounding Thybulle throughout the offseason. If the Sixers had agreed to an extension with the defensive specialist it would have made him more difficult to move. He currently carries a cap hit of $4.4 million, but if he agreed to an extension the incoming value would have to be an average of $4.4 million and whatever the annual salary they agree upon is. This is referred to as a “poison pill” contract. Out of the 179 players who have gone under the poison pill provision, only one has been traded (Devin Harris in 2008).

This now puts Thybulle in a make-or-break season where he must prove that he has taken strides forward offensively. If this is the case and he cements his place as a long-term part of the Sixers’ future, the franchise will have a chance to match any offer that is handed out by opposing teams. Keeping the door open to make a trade is the right decision considering how the additional depth has brought into question how much of a role Thybulle will have this season. Keeping this flexibility while still leaving the door open down the line is the best-case scenario for the Sixers. It will now be up to Thybulle to prove he has improved his jump shot and continue his NBA progression.

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