Philadelphia 76ers: Matisse Thybulle is the preseason rookie steal king

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

With the NBA preseason finally over, we can officially project Philadelphia 76ers rookie guard Matisse Thybulle as the NBA’s next great steal king.

In the City of Brotherly Love, we like to jump to conclusions when it comes to sports; it’s kind of our thing.

A player goes off against a bad foe? They’re All-Star bound. A backup comes in and shines in an expanded role? Well, maybe he should have been starting all alone; the coaches are crazy.

With that being said, Matisse Thybulle‘s start to his Philadelphia 76ers career just feels different.

Over a five-game sample size, in games that (granted) don’t actually count, Thybulle has amassed a fairly impressive stat line – 7.2 points, 1.4 assists, and two rebounds in 19 minutes of action a game – but one state, one single, glorious stat rises to the top: Steals.

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You see, over five games, Thybulle has amassed an incredible 13 steals, with at least one in each individual game.

While this number, roughly 3.25 a game, may seem unsustainable over the course of a full season, that may not be the case, as Thybulle actually averaged .25 more a game over his final season at Washington; good for one of the most prolific single-season of pickpocketing in NCAA history.

Credit it to being a 22-year-old Pac-12 prospect playing against non-NBA players, or the trappings of operating out of Mike Hopkins‘ ‘famous‘ 2-3 zone, but it’s not hard to imagine Elton Brand‘s jaw-dropping when Tybulle’s tape came across a Camden computer scheme; had he found the next Robert Covington?

Well, maybe not physically, as Thybulle is four inches shorter and noticeably quicker than RoCo, but even Joel Embiid has noticed a similarity between the two college upperclassman, at least according to ‘The Process’ himself in an after-practice media appearance.

Fortunately for the 76ers, projecting Tybulle as an elite NBA ballhawk may not be necessary for much longer, as he’s pretty much proved it against at the game’s highest level.

You see, unlike offense – especially 3 point shooting from the extended line – defense has historically translated pretty seamlessly from the NCAA to the NBA level, especially when a player is gifted athletically. Because man, and even zone coverage for that matter, is more or less the same regardless of the team, players who can cover opposing players, make good break angles, and play the ball will typically be able to continue that trend on regardless of the situation.

Thybulle already looks like the 76ers’ best bench defender above incumbents like James Ennis, Mike Scott, and Zhaire Smith, and could be the key to neutralizing double-dominant backcourts like those of the Portland Trail Blazers, the Houston Rockets, and the Golden State Warriors when paired up with fellow 2019 acquisition Josh Richardson.

If we’re being honest, the one-two punch of Richardson and Thybulle could be the best true guard tandem (sorry Ben Simmons) the Sixers have had since maybe Allen Iverson and Lou Williams back in the early 2000s, maybe earlier.

Josh Richardson is a better fit than Jimmy Butler. dark. Next

Now sure, it cost a lot to acquire Matisse Thybulle, as in a roundabout way, the team gave the Boston Celtics Jayson Tatum, Romeo Langford, Carsen Edwards, and a traded Ty Jerome for the pleasure of that 20th overall pick (shout out to @TheTruthHurts on Twitter), but if the Philadelphia 76ers rookie can play solid defense, develop a legit outside shot, and unseat Paul George as the reigning NBA steal king (the magic number is 170) I think they will be overjoyed with their draft selection regardless of the price. Good stuff doesn’t come cheap.