Philadelphia 76ers: Matisse Thybulle is about to cement a unicorn season

Hot take: It’s a crime against basketball that Matisse Thybulle only averages 20 minutes per game.

Now granted, is that really a scorching, seething, 10 on Sean Evans‘ Hot Ones scale level take? No, I think fans of the Philadelphia 76ers would generally agree that the former Washington Huskie has been a godsend this season and deserves an even bigger look moving forward but still, I don’t think we collectively have appreciated just how good Thybulle has played as of late.

I mean, we’re talking about a borderline All-Defense player who has only started eight games in 2020-21 yet still ranks in the top-20 in both total steals and blocks as a guard.

As crazy as it may sound, considering the sheer number of intriguing storyline heading into their final few games of the regular season, Matisse Thybulle is on the cusp of etching his name in NBA history just in time to join the Philadelphia 76ers’ playoff rotation if he can just rack up a few more deflections down the stretch.

Matisse Thybulle is putting up unicorn stats for the Philadelphia 76ers.

As things presently stand, Matisse Thybulle has amassed 105 steals and 71 blocks in 65 games of action. Both of those figures rank first overall on the Philadelphia 76ers, ahead of Ben Simmons (90) and Joel Embiid (68).

No matter how you slice it, those feats are impressive, as Thybulle has played 490 fewer minutes than Embiid and 239 fewer minutes than Simmons, but where, you may ask, do those numbers fall in comparison to the rest of the league?

Pretty darn good.

With four games left to play in the regular season, Thybulle ranks third in the NBA in steals behind our old pals T.J. McConnell and Jimmy Butler and tied for 17th in blocks alongside Minnesota Timberwolves big man Naz Reid. Thybulle currently ranks first among qualifying players in steals per 36 minutes (2.9), and he holds the rare distinction of being the only guard in the league with more than 60 blocks, which *spoiler alert* is pretty darn impressive.

‘Okay, cool. But where does Thybulle’s unique stat line fall in relation to, say, the last decade in the Association?’

Again, pretty darn good.

Since the 2011-12 NBA season, only one guard, Danny Green, has recorded more than 71 blocks in a season, recording 80 in 2017-18 and a career-high 87 in 2014-15. While it’s hard to see Thybulle recording nine steals in the final four games of the season, let alone 16, Green has never recorded more than 100 steals in a single season, whereas “Matheif” has already surpassed that total in only 65 games of action, and could see his total balloon up into the low 110 if he can keep up his 1.6 steals per game average up down the stretch.

So, if only one guard in the last decade has recorded more than 71 blocks in the last decade and he didn’t even come close to Thybulle’s total steals, what does that tell us? Maybe that Thybulle is about to close out his sophomore season with an absolute unicorn of a stat line and deserves every bit of hype he’s been receiving from the Sixers’ fanbase.

But wait, it gets better.

Not only has Thybulle been a statistical overachiever when it comes to deflections, but he’s solidified himself as one of the best wing defenders in the NBA and really deserves a spot on an All-NBA Defensive team if there is any justice in the world of hoops.

Thybulle’s on-court +/- of 6.7 currently ranks 32nd in the NBA among qualifying players – which ranks sixth on the Sixers behind the starting five – and his 101 points allowed per 100 possessions is one of the best marks in the league. Oh yeah, and Thybulle also just so happens to holds the rare distinction of having the best defensive box +/- in the league at a fantastic 4.3, which is a full .7 higher than the next player, Nerlens Noel.

Sidebar: My goodness, a ton of former Sixers are having themselves a season across the league. You love to see it.

Throw that all together, and you have a pretty darn complete defensive player who isn’t just a fan favorite in the City of Brotherly Love but could rightfully be called one of the most underrated players in the entire NBA.

Considering the 2020-21 NBA campaign is the league’s shortest season since 2011–12 was shortened to 66 games due to the lockout, Matisse Thybulle’s on-court mastery is incredibly impressive. While it may not always show up on the stat sheet, especially if you’re looking at one limited to points, rebounds, and assists, Thybulle has been a vital cog in a first-place machine and has thoroughly transformed himself from a questionable fit in Doc Rivers’ rotation to a borderline playoff rotation lock regardless of rotation size (more on that here). Now, if Thybulle can just start scoring more than four points per game, the Philadelphia 76ers might have themselves a serious player for the next decade.