Comparisons get thrown around too casually these days. Everyone is always looking for the next this or the next that. But Philadelphia 76ers veteran Danny Green turned a few heads on Wednesday night when talking about Matisse Thybulle.
Green was asked if there was anyone whom the second-year guard reminded of him and, after a slight pause, the three-time champion simply said: “He reminds me of a better me.” Then the 33-year-old put that statement further in jaw-dropping context by explaining how the Sixers’ duo of Thybulle and Ben Simmons could develop into the best wing defenders in the league.
In fact, Green thinks they could be as good — and maybe even better — than he and Kawhi Leonard were for the San Antonio Spurs. Green and Leonard were teammates for seven seasons there and won a championship together in 2014. They were arguably the best defensive duo at the time.
“We took pride in ourselves, in being the best defensive wings in the league,” Green told reporters. “And before I got here [to Philly] I thought him [Thybulle] and Ben were a pretty good tandem, could be in that [best wing defender conversation]. So the makeup and the build-up of them, with the length, the athleticism … they remind myself a lot of better versions — or could be better versions — of me and Kawhi when we were younger, I would say.”
That’s high praise from anyone, let alone someone who lived and breathed that championship air in San Antonio. Green and Leonard also won a title together for the Toronto Raptors in 2019, one that Sixers fans remember all too well.
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Doc Rivers Calls Thybulle Top-5 Defender
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers spoke before Green made his comments, but the same sentiment rang true. The 59-year-old coached Leonard last year on the Los Angeles Clippers and while he didn’t make the same comparison, he has been wowed by Thybulle’s defensive game. He thinks he’s a shoo-in for the All-Defense team, calling him probably one of the five best defenders in the NBA.
“All-Defense for sure for Matisse, in my opinion,” Rivers told reporters. “It’s funny, that whole defensive vote, sometimes they look at players and their offensive numbers in a crazy way which I always thought is insane.
“If you’re a great defensive player, you’re a great defensive player, and Matisse is that for sure. There’s not 10 better defenders in this league, I can tell you that. There may not be five.”
Green Invites Youngster to Watch Film
One area where Thybulle can improve is on the offensive end. The 24-year-old went 0-for-4 from the field on Wednesday night versus the Phoenix Suns, although his lock-down defense on Devin Booker was something to behold. “Unbelievable,” to quote Rivers. But the Sixers need him to develop his shot to make him less one-dimensional, something Green has offered to help out with.
“Offensively, I just want to simplify the game for him,” Green said. “He’s thinking too much at moments and I think he can help us and help this team and help himself by being a little more aggressive. And making the game a little simpler so he doesn’t have to think too much and just play basketball.”
Green revealed that he had invited Thybulle to sit down and watch film with him so he can point out his weaknesses. The veteran forward wasn’t being malicious or condescending. He feels he could legitimately mentor Thybulle.
“I think he can grow into a really great player once he changes his mindset on the offensive end of the floor,” Green said. “And just changes a few minor things, just simplify a few things for him and the rest of the team, especially making it easier for Joel [Embiid] and Tobias [Harris]. When those guys get doubled, especially Joel, so we have Matisse in the right areas so he can attack and be aggressive and make it easier for him just to get easy baskets.”