Philadelphia 76ers: Benching Matisse Thybulle is a real head scratcher

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

With Ben Simmons out, the Philadelphia 76ers decision to scratch Matisse Thybulle against Jamal Murray and the Denver Nuggets was beyond head-scratching.

The sample size may be small, but I think it’s pretty safe to say Philadelphia 76ers rookie Matisse Thybulle has already far exceeded the expectations of a typical 20th overall pick.

The NBA’s reigning rookie steal king after a preseason filled with pick-pocketing performances, Thybulle, in addition to offseason acquisition Josh Richardson, has given Brett Brown the luxury of having a plus-backcourt defender on the court at all times.

And when the duo are on the court together? Having fun scoring on that duo.

Granted, things haven’t been perfect, as Thybulle is still a work-in-progress offensively, but most teams would happily accept defense now at the expense of offense down the line.

Apparently, Coach Brown did not view it that way going into the Sixers fourth-and-final game of a four-game West Coast road trip against the Denver Nuggets. No, despite being without Ben Simmons – the third player in the team’s defensive wing trifecta – Brown opted against playing Thybulle against the dynamic guard tandem of Jamal Murray, Will Barton, and Gary Harris.

What? Why?


While this sort of decision can be absolutely maddening for that certain set of fans who love to backseat quarterback (head coach?) from the confines of their couch, we actually have some insight into Brown’s thinking thanks to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey.

Oh boy, where do I begin?

First off, as any frequent reader of Section 215 can attest, seeing Trey Burke take the court for the first time this season was a very encouraging sight (more on that here), but how does his elevation to backup point guard affect Thybulle’s role as a combo winger? Burke and Raul Neto combined for 48 minutes of action, meaning neither player earned even a single minute out of position.

Burke’s inclusion may have taken a few minutes away from Richardson at the backup one, but that shouldn’t have been too impactful on Thybulle’s role.

And then we have Furkan Korkmaz. While Korkmaz was in fact on fire in the first half of the game, knocking down all three of his attempts from 3 for 12 points, he only attempted one shot in the entire second half. Had Furkie been on fire in the second half, then sure, bench Thybulle, but for the final 24 minutes of action, the third-year guard from Turkey was a non-factor on offense and a liability on defense.

Boy, if only the team had a fantastic, tenacious defender with a propensity for stealing possessions from unassuming ball handlers to help pick up his slack defensively just sitting on the bench….

Next. Trey Burke finally earns a chance to shine. dark

Would Matisse Thybulle have been able to singlehandedly turn the tides for the Philadelphia 76ers as their near-20-point lead eroded away to nothing down the stretch? Probably not, especially with how well Nikola Jokic played in the fourth quarter, but his inclusion certainly couldn’t have hurt. While I’m all for holding out a rookie when they are ‘going through a bit of a patch’, Brett Brown’s decision to bench his second-best defender against a team with a slew of solid guards certainly played into their third straight loss of the season. Hopefully, this will serve as a learning experience for all parties involved.