Danny Green hasn’t been particularly good against the Atlanta Hawks.
After scoring double-digit points in three of the Philadelphia 76ers‘ five games versus the lone Washington sports franchise with a name, Green averaged 4.5 points on 1-9 shooting from beyond the arc against Atlanta, before suffering a calf injury 3:45 into the Game 3 that will sideline the North Babylon, New York native for the next 2-3 weeks according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
While Green’s game hasn’t been all bad, as he improbably led the team in assists with eight in Game 2, DG received poor marks for his on-ball defense on Trae Young in Game 1 and was a contributing factor to the Sixers dropping Game 1 to the Hawks on the hallowed court of the Wells Fargo Center.
But now, for at least the rest of Round 2 and most/all of Round 3, Doc Rivers is going to have to find a way to replace Green’s efforts at both ends of the court.
Will one player alone be able to fill Green’s shoes? No, the Sixers don’t have another 3-and-D winger capable of filling Green’s game one-for-one. What the Sixers do have, however, is a number of quality role players coming off the bench who have shown an ability to impact games when their numbers are called.
On offense, there’s Furkan Korkmaz, who started out the third quarter alongside Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid in the spot normally filled by Green. While Korkmaz is at best an average wing defender, albeit one with a Green-esque eye for picking off passes, his outside shot has been far more on target than the Sixers’ oldest starter, and his 14 points led all of Doc Rivers’ bench players in route to a 127-110 statement win over Atlanta on their home court (more on that here).
If Korkmaz can average double-digit points moving forward, great. If he can do so while maintaining a positive +/-, even better. But to me, that’s Sunday Gravy on top of the Sixers’ pasta. Considering just how inefficient the team’s bench has been at picking up points with any regularity, expecting multiple players to go off for double-digit points feels like a fool’s errand.
No, what Doc Rivers’ squad needs moving forward more than ever is for Matisse Thybulle to step up and finally become the player he’s destined to be; Matisse Thybulle needs to replace Danny Green as the Philadelphia 76ers’ small forward of the future.
Philadelphia 76ers, meet your new small forward (hopefully).
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In 2020-21, Danny Green averaged 6.3 shots per game from beyond the arc.
While that may not seem like a lot, especially in an NBA landscape where Seth Curry’s brother put up 12.7 deep balls per game, only 26 other players league-wide took more shots on average from beyond the arc per game, and even fewer – 24 – made more of said shots per game than Green.
Between you and me, I don’t think we’ll ever see a world where Matisse Thybulle puts up six-plus 3 points in a game, let alone over a full NBA season.
Even in college, where the 3 point line is about a foot and a half closer to the hoop, Thybulle topped out at 4.7 attempts per game and only drained them at a 35.8 percent clip over his 135 game career with the Washington Huskies.
Why, you may ask, is this particularly relevant? Well, because the Philadelphia 76ers simply can’t have another non-shooter in their starting lineup, not in high-volume minutes alongside Ben Simmons anyway. It doesn’t matter how good Thybulle is at playing defense – and believe me when I say Thybulle is as good a defensive player as you’ll find in the modern-day NBA – if he can’t shoot the ball with some consistency, he’ll remain a part-time player who gets subbed into and out of close games.
Fortunately, Thybulle doesn’t necessarily have to do that much more to produce the same offense as Green thus far through the playoffs; he just needs to score two more points per game.
I know, crazy, right? Green is known as an above-average 3-and-D shooter, whereas Thybulle is a defensive technician capable of making highlight reel-level plays as a pesky perimeter presence, but through the Sixers’ eight playoff games so far this postseason, the 24-year-old is putting up an average of 5.5 points while hitting a career-high 0.9 shots per game. If Thybulle can just attempt 1.5 more shots per game, either from beyond the arc or with his signature brand of slam dunks, there’s little reason to believe he couldn’t be flirting with seven ppg’s by the end of the Hawks series – whether that’s in two more games or four.
If Thybulle can just accomplish that simple feat, which shouldn’t be too difficult if he’s awarded more minutes, the Sixers will be in really good shape, as his defense is very much an upgrade over Green and has already been a notable difference-maker against the Hawks from Game 2 on.
With two legitimate offensive weapons to account for in Trae Young and Sacramento Kings castoff Bogdan Bogdanović, having Thybulle and Ben Simmons on the court at the same time for extended stretches of the game, especially when paired up with a trio of shooters like Curry, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid could continue to give Doc Rivers’ squad an edge over a team who can only pick up chunk points in a few different ways.
And hey, if Thybulle’s offensive inconsistency becomes an issue, Rivers can always sub him out for a more offensive-minded scorer like Shake Milton, Tyrese Maxey, George Hill, or even Korkmaz to provide an extra pop either off the wing or on the drive.
Considering the bench’s current volatility, Rivers should probably give each of his reserve guards some run to see who is hot in any given game, as it seems to change on a dime with no real notice.
Is Matisse Thybulle guaranteed to start for the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 4 and beyond? No. Doc Rivers may opt to roll with Furkan Korkmaz or really shake things up and go with a three-guard look featuring one of his three combo reserves. But make no mistake about it, Danny Green’s absence presents a perfect opportunity for Thybulle to showcase his offensive improvements and signal to the front office whether he’s ready for a more expansive role next season and beyond. If that happens, the Sixers will not only have their small forward of the future locked up but have a very good chance of making waves down the stretch. Needless to say, both of those outcomes would be ideal.