Philadelphia 76ers: Matisse Thybulle steals a six piece from Denver

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

To call Matisse Thybulle a polarizing player – even among Philadelphia 76ers fans – would be an understatement.

Some folks love his defensive ingenuity, his craftiness, and his newfound ability to slam down two off of cuts and the fast break. And to others? Well, they loathe his lack of an outside shot, disapprove of his unorthodox style, and would rather have pretty much anyone else start at the three spot.

Do both camps have some merit? Sure, for all of Thybulle’s strengths, his lack of a 3 point shot is hard to ignore. But goodness, when Thybulle is on, he can change the tenner of a game in a way few players averaging 5.6 points per game can.

Need proof? Well, look no further than the Philadelphia 76ers’ 114-110 loss to the Denver Nuggets, where Matisse Thybulle stole a six piece mostly from reigning MVP Nikola Jokic.

The Philadelphia 76ers need to maximize Matisse Thybulle’s minutes.

With the right personnel surrounding him, Matisse Thybulle can be an absolute asset.

When paired up with another non-shooter, say DeAndre Jordan in the Philadelphia 76ers’ James Harden-led bench unit, things can get dicey. Masking one non-shooter is hard enough, but having two such players on the court together just begs opposing teams to double, or even triple-team Harden and trap him into making poor decisions.

But when Thybulle is allowed to fade into the walls on offense and become an afterthought for both the Sixers and their opponents, it can result in some solid looks from 3, offensive rebounds from under the bucket, and a few easy points off of cuts to the paint. Fortunately, the Sixers’ highest usage lineup, their post-trade deadline starting five, allows Thybulle to do just that, and their Net Rating of +16 in 119 minutes – pre-Nuggets game – clearly highlights that that strategy works.

Therein lies the biggest problem the Sixers now find themselves in: A lack of 3-and-D frontcourt players.

Outside of Georges Niang and Danny Green, who is really more of a backcourt wing than a true forward, the Sixers’ rotation doesn’t have a single 6-foot-8 forward who can shoot 3s, play defense, and attack the rim at either end of the court save Tobias Harris, who has played much better over the past two games. Outside of Thybulle, the team doesn’t have a defender who can shut down Kevin Durant except maybe Joel Embiid for a few moments here and there, and when “The Process” exits the court, the team’s rotating cast of older centers have struggled to keep the offense potent via lobs, screens, or even rebounds, as neither Jordan nor Paul Millsap wins on the boards all that often.

If Thybulle wasn’t tasked with playing alongside a reserve center for 6.4 of his 25.9 minutes per game, some fans might handle the pride of Washington with a bit more care, as he’s the proud owner of a Net Rating of +13.9 playing alongside Embiid and Harden and a Net Rating of +14.2 playing with Harden and Tyrese Maxey, versus a Net Rating of +9.4 when playing alongside Jordan and Harden.

In layman’s terms? When Thybulle plays with a capable ball-handler and a shooting center, his defensive impact overshines his offensive limitations, but when a second non-shooter is introduced, that calculus changes for the worse.

Next. Tyrese Maxey needs to re-find his rhythm. dark

Whether you like Matisse Thybulle or don’t like Matisse Thybulle, he isn’t the reason the Philadelphia 76ers lost to the Denver Nuggets. He finished the game with a team-leading plus-minus of +16, stole away eight possessions from the Nuggets via two blocks and a career-high matching six steals, and was off the court for the vast majority of the final three minutes of the fourth quarter, where the team took back the lead but ultimately came up short. No, Doc Rivers’ squad lost because their bench was outscored by Michael Malone’s by a margin of 48-14, and unfortunately, that trend will likely continue unless Daryl Morey can work his magic and manifest another forward to South Philadelphia.