The accolades for Matisse Thybulle keep rolling in. The second-year guard for the Philadelphia 76ers climbed up to No. 5 on the NBA’s “ladder” rankings for Defensive Player of the Year despite playing only 20.1 minutes per game as a reserve.
Thybulle’s defense has been that good, upstaging established stars like Jimmy Butler and Draymond Green. His 37.6% defensive field-goal percentage is tops in the league, per NBA.com, and he’s allowing a minuscule 0.86 points per possession and 42.5% effective field-goal percentage against pick-and-roll ball handlers.
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers has been beating the drum all year for Thybulle to make NBA All-Defensive Team. So have teammates Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. There is even some quiet chatter that maybe the unassuming 24-year-old should win the Defensive Player of the Year award outright.
That’s not likely to happen due to his limited minutes, but what Thybulle has been doing to opposing players is making him “notorious” around the league.
“The same way we scout guys offensively, I’m sure I’ve managed to make scouting reports defensively,” Thybulle told reporters after Wednesday’s shootaround. “It’s forced me to be a lot more disciplined. Guys will pump fake a lot more and not just being kind of falling into these easy, stupid fouls.”
Thybulle credited Sixers veterans like Tobias Harris and Mike Scott for encouraging him last year to establish his identity. Embiid and Simmons have been huge cheerleaders and mentors to him as well.
“It’s so cool to see them talking to you guys, the media because they’ve had these conversations with me since like halfway through last season,” Thybulle said. “They’ve been a voice in my ear just encouraging me to continue what I’m doing and encouraging me through mistakes which is probably the biggest thing for a young player.”
The latest Sixers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Sixers newsletter here!
Danny Green Teaching Thybulle ‘Little Things’
Another strong voice in Thybulle’s ear this season has been newcomer Danny Green. The three-time champion talked openly a few weeks ago about wanting to expand the youngster’s offensive game.
Green mentioned sitting down in the film room with him and showing him how to improve his shot. It’s still a work in progress but the numbers have jumped up since the All-Star break. Thybulle hit three 3-pointers on Monday against the Chicago Bulls. He’s shooting 30.2% from deep for the year.
“It’s like these constant little things and that’s the part that no one will ever see or notice,” Thybulle said of his work with Green. “But that’s what changes the game for us as players, like these little subtle advantages, and Danny’s been huge just helping me. Things like telling guys’ tells, like when guys have a tendency to do something and to see that.”
Not Afraid to Take on Bigger Guys
Thybulle is fearless on the defensive end, too. He’s been forced to guard power forwards and centers at times this season, particularly when the Sixers go to their smaller lineup. He hasn’t shied away from the competition or backed down from the big men.
“I think where these bigger guys have an advantage in size, I have an advantage in quickness and speed,” Thybulle said. “So it’s been interesting to see just for myself how it plays out at this level but I think I’ve been doing that a decent amount.”