It has long been said that defense wins championships. Daryl Morey and the rest of the Philadelphia 76ers appear to be taking this seriously when evaluating the current roster. The biggest free agent signing this offseason was PJ Tucker, known for his uncompromising defensive ability and versatile positioning. The team also added De’Anthony Melton in a trade expected to have a major impact this year. The Sixers will continue to rely on Joel Embiid to anchor the color and also use Matisse Thybulle’s unique skills as a weapon against opponents.
Looking at defensive stats for the 2021-22 season, there’s every reason to be excited for the Sixers. This is especially the case when looking at the top steal percentage leaders of the 2021-22 season. The NBA leader was Matisse Thybulle with a 3.4% steal rate and second place was De’Anthony Melton with a 3.0% steal rate. The two now have a chance to team up this season, which could hold some scary defensive potential.
The former 20th overall pick of the 2019 draft is one of the most unique prospects in the modern NBA. He produces stunning defensive plays and can prove to be one of the best individual defenders in the entire league when he’s at his best. Thybulle is coming off a season in which he earned NBA All-Defensive Second Team honors despite playing just 25.5 minutes per game. He is only the seventh Sixers player in team history to receive multiple All-Defensive Team honors.
In his third season as a pro, Thybulle produced a career high 1.7 blocks per game in addition to 5.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game. When he was the main defender, he held his opponents to just 40.7% when shooting from the field. This was the second-best grade in the NBA among players with at least 500 field goal attempts. He was that too only player in the league with over 110 blocks and 70 steals and became only the seventh in 76ers history to accomplish the feat.
He may have flown under the radar in the madness of the offseason, but De’Anthony Melton is sure to be a key part of the Sixers bench this season. He did it in a career-best 22.7 minutes per game last year averaged 10.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game last season with the Grizzlies. Despite always having limited minutes of play, Melton has averaged 1.2 or more steals per game in all four seasons of his NBA career. Melton was traded to the Sixers on draft night in exchange for Danny Green and the 23rd overall pick.
With a height of 6ft 2in and a wingspan of 6ft 9in, Melton uses his long arms to cause trouble for opponents. He’s also a formidable athlete who’s also capable on offense. The USC product may have been pushed out of the Memphis rotation towards the end of last season, but his skills will be a welcome addition to the Sixers’ current roster.
The pairing of Thybulle and Melton on the pitch has the potential to create some big problems for opponents this season. Despite Thybulle’s influence last season, the Sixers ranked only 26th in the NBA in forced turnovers. While the possibility of the Washington product being traded cannot be ruled out, the addition of more full rotation players will help limit Thybulle’s weaknesses this season. Having these types of defensive players is a great sign for the Sixers and one they will capitalize on throughout the season.