Thybulle’s Newfound Grit Stimulates Once-Sluggish Sixers Bench


What do you think when you think of Matisse Thybulle?

He’s the fresh-faced Sixers guard who ruins Popeyes orders (but who’s slightly better with Chick-Fil-A).

Coming out of Washington, Philly faithful had high hopes for their new combo guard. What “Tisse” lacked in edge, he more than made up for in likability. He proved to be friendly, energetic and a great vlogger. In the homestretch of his sophomore season, however, Thybulle has shed his cheery exterior for something far more cutthroat.

Ding Ding

Thybulle finally did the one thing all 76ers fans appreciate: he got into an altercation. It wasn’t as explosive as Jojo vs KAT, nor as heated as the Sixers-Nets playoff scuffle, but it was enough to show his dark side.

All it took was Kris Dunn blocking a high-five attempt for Matisse to show a bit of bite. Most Philly fans had yet to see Matisse frown — let alone get in someone’s face — but his passion was impressive nevertheless. In the same game, Thybulle had a steal and score that he punctuated with a stare down. Sixers fans have come to expect his defensive prowess– the extra spice, however, is completely new.

Most players take the offseason to add a jump shot or post move, Thybulle added grit. He was drafted as a defensive specialist, known for bolting around the court with uncanny anticipation and dexterity. He’s the definition of a shot in the arm. He moves like a spring-loaded jackrabbit and snuffs passing lanes with extreme prejudice. In just under two years, he’s developed into an All-Defensive team talent.

Opportunities are Scarce

With the offseason additions of Seth Curry, Danny Green and Tyrese Maxey, Thybulle’s opportunities have dwindled. His offensive numbers have actually decreased in his second season. His defense, however, is as lockdown and dogged as a maximum-security prison. Defensive acumen breeds toughness, therefore Matisse developing into a tough guy isn’t a surprise. The baby-faced 24-year-old with the mega-watt grin is gone. He’s been replaced by a second-unit staple that serves as a defensive dynamo.

Thybulle is to the backcourt what Dwight Howard is to the front court, as illustrated by their roles. Dwight provides energy, intensity and toughness off the bench. He provides a flippant edge, and allows Embiid to get his rest.

Thybulle provides that same engine in the backcourt. He alleviates pressure on Curry, Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons with relentless defense and attitude. A year ago, Philadelphia had the toughness of tracing paper when Embiid and Simmons were struggling or sitting. Thybulle’s emergence serves as a lynchpin. He’s an anchor that fortifies the second unit on defense, creating fluid offense the other way.

Last year, the Sixers bench was personified as being the lineup without Simmons and Embiid. This year, Thybulle’s attitude and energy gives the second unit an identity. They’re annoying, they’re brash, they’re full-throttle and they’re insufferably punishing.

The best part of Thybulle’s evolution is watching him become his own best teammate. That might seem silly given he plays with a generational passer and arguably, the league’s most dominant big. However, Matisse can create for himself in ways few others can.

Shot creation usually means someone can take their defender off the dribble or create space for a jumper. Thybulle is one of those guys who blocks a shot and takes it the other way. His scores come when he jumps a pass that leads to his own fast-break bucket. If he tried out for the Eagles, he’d be their number two corner. He’s the rare breed of player whose offensive efficacy starts on the other side of the court.

This version of Thybulle is the best for the team. Few things build momentum like acrobatic steals and perfectly timed rejections. Obviously these contributions lead to victories, but they also amplify Thybulle’s swagger and stature. Outside of achieving superstardom, there are few things that earn someone a reputation quite like putting clamps on the opposition.

Undoubtedly, there’s a confidence boost that comes with knowing you can put handcuffs on opposing guards. Offenses think twice about passing near him, let alone attacking him. He’s secured status as shutdown defender, so it only makes sense he’d start to feel himself. In this case, his confidence manifests in defensive highlights and fiery assertiveness.

Philly has something special in Thybulle, and as a result will have one of the most stifling and exasperating defenses for years to come. 

Follow us on Twitter @SixersLead for the latest 76ers news and insight. 

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About Kadin Burnett

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