The Philadelphia 76ers knew exactly what they wanted when they selected Matisse Thybulle out of Washington during the 2019 NBA Draft. With hopes of becoming the NBA’s top defense in the league, Sixers General Manager Elton Brand figured the 2019 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year could help get them there.
While the Sixers didn’t exactly reach their team-wide goal last season, the then-rookie held up his end of bargain. Not only did Thybulle lead all rookies in steals by a wide margin, but he was also Top 15 in steals in the entire NBA coming off the bench.
This year, Thybulle had a slow start to the season as a training camp injury kept him out of Doc Rivers’ rotation to begin the year. At this point, though, the second-year guard is thriving. While his offense is still a work in progress, Thybulle looks even better than ever on defense, which is significant considering how good he was last season.
Lately, Thybulle has garnered nonstop praise from his head coach and teammates based on his defensive performances. But Joel Embiid’s recent statement takes the cake for the most notable praise Thybulle has received yet.
“When you got Matisse in the game, that’s our best defense,” Embiid said on Wednesday night following a Sixers win over the Houston Rockets. “I think he has the potential to be the best defender in the league. Just the way he moves and the way he played on defense, and he’s got great hands. He was all over the place, and I think he has a chance, especially when it comes to the All-NBA Defensive Team.”
Embiid knows good defense. After all, he prides himself on being one of the best bigs in the league on that side of the ball. Thybulle would have to log more minutes if he wants to earn the right to be called the best defender in the NBA, but Embiid’s bold claim isn’t off-base. Thybulle is the real deal on defense, and the Sixers are thrilled to have him as a part of their squad.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_