Philadelphia 76ers: Matisse Thybulle ranks third on NBA Defensive Ladder

(Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)
(Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images) /

Matisse Thybulle is a defensive wizard.

He’s a magician in man coverage, a trickster in the trap, and has such impressive premonitions in the zone that you’d think he could see the future. When the Philadelphia 76ers need to slow down an elite perimeter defender, like, for example, Seth Curry‘s older brother, Thybulle thanklessly takes the assignment without batting an eye and holds opposing scorers to 8.6 percent worse overall field goal shooting percentage as a result (more on that later).

Sure, his offense is bad, as even his biggest fans will attest, but my goodness, when he’s on and everything’s clicking, where isn’t a better perimeter defender earning an NBA paycheck in the association today?

And hey, guess what? In a very welcome turn of events, Matisse Thybulle is getting some much-deserved shine from outside of the Philadelphia 76ers’ fanbase, as the third-year guard/forward has earned a spot in Steve Aschburner‘s Defensive Player Ladder on

Matisse Thybulle has been a showtime defender for the Philadelphia 76ers.

After landing in the “Next Five” section of Steven Aschburner’s column for the month of November, Matisse Thybulle came in third behind Draymond Green and Rudy Gobert in the December edition of the Defensive Player Ladder and, in case you don’t feel like clicking here to read the full list, I have for you the full write-up on his efforts for your reading pleasure.

"Ben Simmons annually was one of the top two or three defenders in the NBA (if you didn’t know that, just ask him). His absence has seen the Sixers fall out of Top 10 status on that side of the ball, but Thybulle has stepped up as the team’s first on-ball option. The players he guards are shooting 8.6% worse in overall field-goal accuracy, second only to Minnesota’s Patrick Beverley (minus 9.6%). Thybulle also ranks in the Top 10 individually in deflections and steals. He made his impact felt against the Warriors when he blocked two 3-point attempts from Stephen Curry."

Alright, alright, alright; not too shabby. As talent evaluators the world over will forthrightly tell you, defense is incredibly hard to quantify in the NBA – or basketball in general – because there really aren’t a whole lot of stats that can be attributed solely on a player’s defensive efforts. Much like how interceptions, tackles, and completion percentage can only partially tell the story of a cornerback’s dominance in the NFL, if a player’s defense is so good that they force opposing ball handlers to pass out of looks, it won’t show up on the stat sheet in the same way as, say, steals and blocks.

Still, when you look at blocks and steals, Thybulle remains in a similarly elite category to his 2020-21 statistical achievements, currently standing as the lone player in the NBA who is averaging 1.8 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. As Aschburner pointed out, opposing players are making their shots at an 8.6 percent lower clip, and when he’s in the game, opposing head coaches have to change up their offensive game plan to send screen after screen to get their star player onto a player like Seth Curry.

*sigh* if only Thybulle wasn’t the 352nd-ranked offensive player in the NBA according to FiveThirtyEight, then we might really be in business.

dark. Next. Matisse Thybulle can learn from Gary Payton II

Once Matisse Thybulle was named to the second All-Defensive team earlier this year, it was kind of hard to call him Philadelphia’s best-kept secret. He shows up on the opposing team’s scouting report, and they have attempted to neutralize his defensive prowess by exploiting his offensive inefficiency and thus, forcing Doc Rivers to limit his minutes. Still, when it comes to shutting down an opposing backcourt scorer, especially ones in the Steph Curry echelon, there’s no one better than 22 for the Philadelphia 76ers, as Steve Aschburner so kindly pointed out.