Play Matisse Thybulle and Danny Green together, Philadelphia 76ers

Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

Physically speaking, Matisse Thybulle has the ideal build to be a modern-day NBA 3-and-D wing.

Measuring in at 6-foot-5, 201 pounds with the wingspan of a man nine inches taller, Thybulle is built to switch across multiple positions on defense, remain engaged in transition, and then perch on the wings waiting for an open look from deep.

The only problem? Thybulle can’t hardly shoot for shoot, and it’s killing the Philadelphia 76ers‘ offensive spacing.

Now granted, Thybulle isn’t like Ben Simmons from beyond the arc, as he at least attempts an average of 2.3 shots per game over his three-year NBA tenure, but when he hits them at a 32.6 percent career clip, it allows opposing teams to sag off of him on offense and further crowd the paint, where Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey like to operate.

So what are the Sixers to do? They can’t really count on Thybulle in a 3-and-D role, as his lack of an outside shot all but decimates the team’s spacing on the wings, but his defense is so darn good that limiting him to a part-time player would be an absolute waste of one of the best one-way performers in the NBA.

A possible solution? Try playing Matisse Thybulle and Danny Green together more often, the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Philadelphia 76ers should play Thybulle like Simmons on offense.

In the NBA, net rating compares the offensive potency of a particular lineup versus how well it holds up on defense. The rating, which can only be positive or negative, depending on how well the team performs at either end of the court, comes about as close to truly identifying how well a perspective lineup fares for the entire time it’s on the court, even if it, like any other stat, should be taken with a grain of salt with the team’s situation in mind.

With that being said, what is the Philadelphia 76ers’ best lineup in terms of net rating? Well, if you remove lineups that have played together for five or fewer minutes, the answer is Tyrese Maxey at the one, Seth Curry at the two, Danny Green at the three, Matisse Thybulle at the four, and Joel Embiid bringing up the rear in the paint, who collectively have a net rating of 90.9.

Surprising? Sort of. Maxey and Curry aren’t exactly what one would call elite backcourt defenders, and both Green and Thybulle are 6-foot-5, but in the minutes where that quintet have shared the court together, they’ve recorded the ninth-best offensive rating of any of the team’s 53 eligible five-man lineups (127.3) while logging the best defensive rating of any unit on the team at an elite 36.4.

All in all, not too shabby.

Now granted, I chose the signifier five or fewer minutes to dictate the Sixers’ best net rating lineup for a reason, as the team has only put those five players on the court together in one game for six minutes in total, but the lineup’s potency makes a ton of sense because Thybulle and Green are the team’s two best perimeter defenders and the former is built uniquely enough to contest shots of even the longest power forwards from around the arc.

Huh, do you know what that sort of sounds like? The Sixers’ starting lineup from last season, where they put two of their top defenders on the court together and used them in tandem to slow down opposing scorers.

It sort of makes sense, right? Sure, any team can run screens to switch off of one good defender, but that proposition becomes all the more precarious when you have two players similarly equipped to do the deed. With Simmons out, Thybulle instantly becomes the team’s top perimeter defender, with Green sliding up a spot to number two, after seeing a slew of success in 2020-21 with a similar perimeter rotation, why aren’t those two getting more run together alongside Maxey, Curry, and Embiid?

It can’t be because Thybulle is a limited offensive weapon, because Simmons provided even less floor spacing in the halfcourt without the ball. It also can’t be because it would leave the Sixers without a ball handler capable of getting the offense into its sets, as Maxey has proven himself a viable floor general keenly capable of making good decisions and attacking the basket.

Really, the decision to almost exclusively stagger Green and Thybulle has more to do with Doc Rivers’ rotational rigidity than Tobias Harris‘ supreme fit with the starters.

Sidebar: For those wondering, the Sixers’ current starting five has a net rating of 9.9, which an offensive rating of 110.6 and a defensive rating of 100.7. While that offensive number isn’t that much worse than that of the lineup featuring Thybulle, the defensive rating and overall net rating are both almost 100 points different, which is staggering.

Does having Thybulle on the court with Embiid make it easier to crowd the paint? Yes, but an easy way to limit that those opportunities is to crowd the rest of the court with 3 point catch-and-shoot specialists like Green, who is taking one more attempt per game and making his shots at a 41.5 percent clip instead of a 28.6 percent clip.

Because Thybulle is such an offensive afterthought, he can be used just like how the Golden State Warriors use Gary Payton II, namely by cutting to the basket with Embiid on the perimeter and picking up a few more points anchored in the dunker spot (read more about that here).

Ideal? Hardly, but scheming a few easy buckets for Thybulle is a lot easier to do than convince Harris not to pass up wide open 3s to take tougher 2s in the beyond crowded restricted area.

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Do I think Matisse Thybulle should abandon his development as a shooter and focus solely on being an Andre Robinson-type power forward? No. For Thybulle to truly come into his own as an NBA player, he really needs to start hitting 35 percent of his 3s at a 4-6 shots per game clip, but that isn’t going to magically happen overnight. No, for the Philadelphia 76ers to keep Thybulle’s defense on the court, they need to surround him with shooters and a savvy playmaker like Tyrese Maxey at the helm to get things going, even if his production cuts into Tobias Harris’ time with the starters. In the switch-happy modern-day NBA, playing Danny Green and Thybulle together could be a fantastic asset.