The Best Defender You Haven’t Heard Of: Matisse Thybulle

Matisse Thybulle might be the only player in the NBA that is more famous for his YouTube account than his play on the court. But that doesn’t mean Thybulle isn’t a great player. Far from it. True, his offensive game needs work. He’s got more games this year with zero points than he does in double digits (seven to zero). Which is probably why you haven’t heard of him.  Despite averaging just 3.1 points per game, Thybulle still averages 20 minutes a game after regaining his place in the lineup post December. Why does he play those minutes? It’s due solely to his defense. 

It’s not easy to earn minutes when you are a total blackhole on offense in today’s NBA. As much as I love Thybulle, that’s what he’s been this season. He’s shooting 35% from the FIELD. Not the three point line. It’s not like his three point percentage is good either. It’s 25% if you are wondering. You have to be really good on defense to overcome that offense. Good thing Thybulle IS that good.

Matisse Thybulle, Defensive Game Changer

You don’t need to look further than last night’s game against the Sacramento Kings. De’Aaron Fox, who’s been a monster this whole year was having another fantastic night. In the first half he was 9/13 with 23 points, with Ben Simmons (first team all-defense last year) defending him for much of the half. Towards the end of the third Thybulle was put on Fox. Fox went 3/13 the rest of the game which the 76ers ended up winning. Thybulle put up 0 shots but played the entire 4th quarter just to stop Fox. And it worked. 

There have been multiple games that Thybulle has turned around because of his defense. This game against the Kings. The game against the Indiana Pacers where the 76ers switched to a 2-3 zone  and came back from a 16 point 4th quarter deficit also comes to mind. Thybulle amassed four steals and two blocks in that game, an increasingly common stat-line for him. He officially had five deflections in the game, although Doc Rivers claimed he had eleven in the 4th quarter alone. Of course, the rest of the team picks up the slack on offense to fuel these comebacks. But Thybulle’s clamps are just as big a part.

Thybulle by the Numbers

Thybulle shows off his defending skills each night whether he gets the counting stats or not. In the aforementioned Kings game he had just one block (that might’ve been a foul…). But more often than not Thybulle absolutely stuffs the defensive stat sheet. If you look at his per game stats it’s not THAT impressive. 1.5 steals and .9 blocks per game. But this year (since he didn’t play much in December and missed time for Covid-19 tracing) he’s only averaging 17 minutes per game. His per-36 numbers are outstanding. He’s at 3.2 steals and at 1.8 blocks per game. That puts him first in steals for the entire NBA, and 23rd in blocks, which is first amongst non-bigs. He also leads the league in deflections at 6.6 per game. Advanced stats? He’s got those too. He’s second in DBPM (Defensive box plus-minus) and in the top 20 in defensive rating. Thybulle is also 11th in DRAPTOR, 4th amongst just wings. 

Thybulle possesses lateral quickness that lets him keep up with anyone, including arguably the fastest guy in the NBA in Fox. He’s also got incredibly long arms, with over a 7 foot wingspan. More than his physical gifts though is his instincts and tenacity. He’s always swiping at passing ball handlers even when they aren’t his man. His ability to jump passing lanes is already tops in the NBA. His best attribute though is his unparalleled ability to affect the play from behind. The amount of blocks and steals he gets from behind are staggering. Even when he gets beat or caught on screens, hit long arms and quick burst allow him to catch opponents by surprise.

What’s Next?

Thybulle needs to figure it out on offense. Once he does, he can play more minutes and allow his game changing defense to be on display even more. All-Defensive teams are in the books for Thybulle if he can just stay on the court. The lowest minutes Tony Allen ever played to make an All-Defensive team was 20.8 in 2011. Thybulle is right around there, but if he can get to Allen’s career average of 25.9 minutes per game, the sky’s the limit. There aren’t many players you watch just for the amazing things they do on defense. Matisse Thybulle, in just his second year, is one of them.

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