Philadelphia 76ers: Josh Richardson is the perfect mentor for Matisse Thybulle

In a calculated twist of fate, Philadelphia 76ers have the perfect player for Matisse Thybulle to model his game already on their roster: Josh Richardson.

When the Philadelphia 76ers traded Jimmy Butler to the Miami Heat for Josh Richardson, it turned a lot of heads in the Delaware Valley.

Sure, the trade was admittedly very complicated emotionally, as many fans would have preferred to keep Butler around a max deal, but for a still-rookie GM like Elton Brand to identify a player of value on Miami’s roster – a player who was effectively untouchable in previous Butler conversations – and execute a sign-and-trade to bring him to town has to be lauded for its ingenuity alone.

But after the dust settled, the 76ers are now left with three highly touted shooting guards looking for playing time with roughly the same skill set in Richardson, Zhaire Smith, and 2019 first-round pick Matisse Thybulle.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

As things presently stand, Richardson is under contract through the 2020-21 season for roughly $10 million a year, with a player option in 2021 worth $11 million. Smith and Thybulle are under contract through at least the 2022 and 2023 seasons respectfully, with an additional year available with an extended qualifying offer.

That means that the team could perfectly transition from Richardson as their shooting guard to one of their younger wings (Thybulle) seamlessly – with virtually no wasted money – or years – on their salary cap.

Physically speaking, Thybulle and Richardson look virtually identical, with the former being slightly stockier and the latter being an inch or so taller. While the duo already share a hard-nosed defensive acumen, Thybulle is without a doubt more skilled in earning a steal, whereas Richardson is an established NBA outside shooter with a 36.8 career shooting percentage.

Now, one could argue which player is better now, or has a higher upside over the course of his career, but why pit the duo against each other so early in their shared tenure in *cough* the City of Brotherly Love?

Much like how the Sixers encouraged J.J. Redick to take Landry Shamet, and to a lesser degree Shake Milton, under his wing in 2018, Brett Brown could pair Tybulle up with Richardson in practice, on flights, and in warm-ups to ensure he learns the right way to do things from an established vet.

I mean the team was so high on Thybulle coming out of college that they traded the 33rd overall pick to their sworn enemies the Boston Celtics to ensure they could select him 20th overall – why not develop him the right way?

While defense typically transfers the easiest from college the pros, even for a player like Thybulle who was predominantly deployed in a quirky zone scheme at Washington, having to play more games over an extended period of time while getting acclimated to a new 3 point line can take time, and discourage players who aren’t in the right position to succeed – even for a 22-year-old rookie who actually graduated from college.

In Richardson, the Sixers already have a Thybulle-type player in the heart of his prime that Thybulle can model his game after, while also serving as a mentor figure to bounce any questions off of that may arise.

And best of all, it’s not like Richardson and Thybulle (and to a lesser extent Zhaire Smith) are competing for the same role or playing time, as the duo can actually share the court with ease.

Occasionally cast as a moonlight point guard over his tenure in South Beach, Richardson and Thybulle could very well play together in the Sixers’ backcourt at the one and two, either with Ben Simmons off the court entirely, or shifted inside to power forward.

After watching a slew of defensively-challenged sharpshooters run feverishly around the court hunting for an open shot, it’s safe to say the Sixers have a new type at shooting guard: switchable 3-and-D wingers with an emphasis on the D.

But regardless of how Brett Brown and company decide to deploy their wing rotations around Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid, it’s nice to know that the Philadelphia 76ers have built a deep wings rotation around Josh Richardson and Matisse Thybulle (and again Zhaire Smith) that can grow together into new roles on their new team. It’s almost like this was Elton Brand’s plan all along.