It has long been said that defense wins championships. Daryl Morey and the rest of the Philadelphia 76ers look to be taking this seriously when evaluating the state of the current roster. The biggest free-agent addition this offseason was PJ Tucker who is known for his hard-nosed defensive ability and versatile positional fit. The team also added De’Anthony Melton in a trade who is expected to make a major impact this year. The Sixers will continue to count on Joel Embiid to anchor the paint and use Matisse Thybulle’s unique skillset as a weapon against opponents as well.
When looking into the defensive stats for the 2021-22 season, there is plenty of reason to be excited about the Sixers. This is especially the case when looking at the top steal percentage leaders of the 2021-22 season. Leading the NBA was Matisse Thybulle with a 3.4% steal rate and coming in second was De’Anthony Melton who tallied a 3.0% steal percentage. The two now have a chance to team up this season which could hold some frightening defensive potential.
The former 20th overall pick in the 2019 draft is one of the more unique prospects in the modern NBA. He produces eye-popping defensive plays and can look to be one of the best individual defenders across the entire league when he is at his best. Thybulle is coming off of a season in which he earned NBA All-Defensive Second Team honors despite playing just 25.5 minutes per game. He is just the seventh Sixers player in the team’s history to earn multiple All-Defensive team honors.
In his third season as a pro, Thybulle produced a career-high 1.7 blocks per game in addition to 5.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. He held opponents to just 40.7% shooting from the field when he was the primary defender. This was the second-best mark in the NBA among players with at least 500 field goals attempted. He also was the only player in the league to tally over 110 blocks and 70 steals and was just the seventh in 76ers history to accomplish this feat.
He may have flown under the radar among the madness of the offseason but De’Anthony Melton is sure to be an impactful part of the Sixers bench this season. In a career-high 22.7 minutes per game last year, he averaged 10.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.4 steals per game last season with the Grizzlies. Despite only ever seeing limited minutes, Melton has averaged 1.2 or more steals per game in all four seasons of his NBA career. Melton was traded to the Sixers on draft night in exchange for Danny Green and the 23rd overall pick.
Standing 6’2″ with a 6’9″ wingspan, Melton makes use of his long arms to create issues for opponents. He also is an impressive athlete who is capable on the offensive end as well. The USC product may have been squeezed out of the rotation in Memphis toward the end of last season, but his skillset will be a welcomed addition to the Sixers current roster.
Pairing up Thybulle and Melton on the court has the potential to create some major issues for opponents this season. Even with Thybulle’s impact last season the Sixers ranked just 26th in the NBA in turnovers forced. While the possibility of the Washington product being traded cannot be ruled out, the addition of more complete rotation players will help limit Thybulle’s weaknesses this season. Having these types of impact defensive players is a great sign for the Sixers and one that they will be looking to make use of as the season approaches.