Monday, October 3, 2022

Sixers could try to trade the defensive ace before the start of the season

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The Philadelphia 76ers enter training camp after significantly retooling the roster. While the top of the lineup looks pretty much the same — Joel Embiid, James Harden, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris — the rest of the rotation got a big boost this summer.

Instead of relying on the inconsistent performances of Furkan Korkmaz, Shake Milton and Georges Niang, the Sixers went wild and acquired Danuel House, De’Anthony Melton and Montrezl Harrell through free agency or trade. The additions could go a long way in bolstering a banking unit that ranked 28th in goals and 27th in assists across the NBA last season.

But then there is Matisse Thybulle. The former Washington Huskie is a bit caught in the middle. His defensive numbers are exceptional; Last season, he held three-pointers with a 24.4% batting average on his way to an All-Defense Second Team pitch. But while his defense might deserve consideration on the starting lineup, his offense has relegated him to the bench.

And now, with training camp just around the corner, Thybulle could be in the hot seat. According to ClutchPoints’ Sam DiGiovanni, the Sixers’ defensive ace is a prime trade contender for the new season.

“The 25-year defensive sensation may have worked out of Philly’s favor in the postseason. He appears to be in for an uphill battle to remain an important part of the roster moving forward,” DiGiovanni wrote on Sept. 21.

Thybulle has trouble staying in offensive form. But his biggest troubles also came when he last donned a Sixers jersey: last year’s playoffs.

Thybulle actually made progress as a starter last season, cracking the top-5 in 50 of his 66 regular-season games. But his numbers were forgettable at best, bloodless at worst. Thybulle shot 50% from the field and just 31.3% from three.

When the Sixers drafted Thybulle, they had hopes he could later become a first-rate three-and-D starter. The “D” is definitely there. But the “three” is still a long way off.

“He is in no way a strong shooter, ball carrier or offensive creator. His only notable improvement in performance came at the free-throw line, but his percentage there has fluctuated widely throughout his career. The lack of volume he has on free throws doesn’t leave much room to confidently say he’s finding it,” noted DiGiovanni.

But perhaps the worst stab came during the playoffs. First, it was revealed that Thybulle is not fully vaccinated, meaning he missed the two Sixers games in Toronto. But then, once he was eligible, he gave head coach Doc Rivers every reason to keep him on the bench. He posted a negative net rating in each of Philadelphia’s games against the Heat, culminating in consecutive minus-15 performances in games six and seven.

But Thybulle’s candidacy in the trade market is shaped by another factor: he might be the only guy the other teams care about.

If the Sixers intend to get the most out of their bank in the trade market, Thybulle is the only one who could elicit interest of his own accord. That’s because its defensive tools are legitimate, replicable, and enticing, while its offense lacks.

“Thybulle sets himself apart from the rest of the Sixers’ benchers because he may actually have an interest in the league,” DiGiovanni explained. “No team gives up anything important for the likes of Shake Multon, Furkan Korkmaz or Georges Niang. If his great defense were complemented by a decent offense, he’d likely be in contention for a starting job. He may only have one more chance to prove he can be a productive player in the postseason.”

The Sixers also need to come under the league’s 15-man contract rule for the regular season. With 17 players currently under contract, Thybulle could be the centerpiece of a small three-for-one deal with another team.

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