Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers won’t reveal his plan for replacing Danny Green. It’s gamesmanship in the purest form as he seeks to keep the Atlanta Hawks on their toes up until tip-off in Game 4. However, there is a slew of worthy candidates to take over the fifth starting spot.
Furkan Korkmaz has been hyped up quite a bit in this space, along with George Hill and Shake Milton. The other intriguing option would be Matisse Thybulle, one of the Sixers’ “Trae Young Stoppers” who finished 12th in NBA Defensive Player of the Year voting.
Thybulle and Korkmaz took turns filling in for Green in Game 3, with each one doing what they do best. Korkmaz helped space the floor and hit three deep balls for 11 points, while Thybulle (seven points) forced the issue on the defensive end before fouling out on a questionable call. It all comes down to which area needs a greater emphasis in the series.
“Danny was so good defensively in a lot of cases that you got a little bit of both,” Rivers said. “So we’ve got to make that decision.”
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Making the Case for Thybulle
There are a lot of reasons why starting Thybulle in Game 4 makes the most sense. First, the 24-year-old is a building block for the Sixers’ future. The franchise might want to see how well he adapts to stepping up on the biggest stage.
They are going to have to make a decision after the season as to whether they retain Green and Korkmaz, so a breakout performance from Thybulle might make those debates easier. And pairing Thybulle with Ben Simmons in the backcourt would put Trae Young in Alcatraz to start the game. It’s a prison sentence.
“I think it’s not so much it’s time for one person to step up, but everyone. I think it would not only be huge for me but everybody down the line,” Thybulle told reporters. “Everyone needs to be ready to show up and do their part. Especially just being a part of the second unit coming off the bench, our job is to literally be that spark, be the energy, and to do it within your role.”
The latter is what might keep Thybulle out of the starting five, though. The Sixers have relied on his defensive intensity off the bench as a way to keep pushing the pace on that end of the floor when Simmons is resting. Remember, he is still a streaky and sometimes hesitant three-point shooter who can’t space the floor as well as Korkmaz.
Making the Case for Korkmaz
Korkmaz was lights out in Game 3 and didn’t appear to be that much of a liability on the defensive end. Plus, the Turkish standout has started 11 games for the Sixers this season. Rivers might want to keep the status quo and allow Korkmaz to keep gelling with the first unit. His role as a “space guy” has already been defined.
“With the first unit, I was mostly a space guy, knock down the shots,” Korkmaz said. “And then when you start the game, you set the tone defensively and offensively, that’s also really huge for us. But I don’t think my mentality changes, whether I’m a starter or come off the bench. I’m still trying to make shots, make the play, attack closeouts. If the team needs it I can create, too, so that’s what I’m trying to do.”