The big news at the top of this week came Tuesday morning when Marc Stein reported that the Sacramento Kings are “said to be monitoring the availability of Philadelphia’s Matisse Thybulle.”
Following a week where head coach Mike Brown challenged his team to bring legitimate “urgency” to the defensive end and called Harrison Barnes—who lacks much depth behind him—”irreplaceable,” it makes a load of sense that Sacramento would be interested in the long, athletic, and active Thybulle, who’s been on the all-defensive second team for two consecutive seasons.
The idea of moving the wing has picked up a lot of steam ever since the deadline passed in October for rookie extensions without Thybulle coming to an agreement with the 76ers.
Moreover, after starting 50 of 66 games last season, Thybulle’s rotational role in Philly has been significantly reduced as he’s averaging just 12.1 minutes per appearance, the lowest of his career. Last year, he averaged 5.7 points in 25.5 minutes per game, but this year at half the allotted time he’s averaging 2.7 points.
Obviously, Thybulle’s strengths as one of the better renowned perimeter defenders in the league don’t necessarily extend to the offensive end, but it’d be easier to argue that he would be far more serviceable than, say, KZ Okpala.
That isn’t to say either strike much fear in opposing defenses, but one guy has a track record at this level of making positive impacts on offense without leaning on isolation play, shot creation, or anything like that.
More than just sinking 40.8% of his wide open three-point attempts this season, Thybulle has proven he can function as a participant in the offense, offering benefits that are not cut at the knees by his deficiencies.
As some have pointed to, in 384 minutes together last season, the trio of James Harden, Joel Embiid, and Matisse Thybulle posted a net rating of 17.5 with the help of a terrific 103.7 defensive rating when on the floor together, but most impressive was the fact the grouping generated a 120.6 offensive rating. That clearly was not Thybulle’s doing, but through his ability to be a smart cutter, a willing screener, and have an understanding of spacing, he was never considered a liability that could hurt the offense.
As Kings fans know, the complementary nature of offense and defense, especially in today’s NBA, comes into play. Bolstering the perimeter defense—i.e. preventing drivers from getting too deep in the paint, pick and roll defense, having another option to stop the point of attack, etc.—creates a chain reaction that connects to the other end of the floor.
A team that can consistently get stops is a team that can push the pace and prevent the opposition from getting set; defense directly affects the offense. Mike Brown has mentioned this several times before and his players speak in the same vernacular with the same feelings.
Some might scrunch their face and point to the offensive talent that surrounded Thybulle in Philadelphia when he was a key player for them last season. Yeah, Embiid and Harden, along with Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, and others are talented on that end, but Thybulle would be nestled in among the league’s top offense if he were dealt to Sacramento. He’d have the same benefits, the same opportunity to hold down a specific role.
Also hard to neglect is the fact that Thybulle would be the most solid option of the bench to relieve Harrison Barnes. As a team intent on making the playoffs, it’s important to preserve an important player such as Barnes, and Thybulle would lend a massive hand in that effort.
While it wouldn’t be a splash deal, it would be a smart move that would solve some personnel issues for the third-ranked team in the Western Conference. That is, of course, so long as Monte McNair and company feel confident that they can retain him.
Thybulle becomes a restricted free agent this offseason, but he’s one of the rare guys McNair would put the extra effort in retaining. While he and the front office want to secure roster continuity and not add guys that may very well end up as rentals, the fact Thybulle would dovetail nicely with Sacramento’s core in age and skillset makes him worth such a task.
Of course, it’s trade deadline season and there is more flatulance than smoke in much of the rumor mill, but the connection between Matisse Thybulle and the Kings stands out because it seems so ideal.