Will Matisse Thybulle’s offensive struggles limit his value to the 76ers?

Even as a rookie, Matisse Thybulle looked like a special wing defender. But can the shooting-starved 76ers justify keeping him on the floor?

The NBA Bubble has brought quite a variety of players into the media’s spotlight. The rookie Matisse Thybulle became a Youtube sensation as he recorded his time in The Bubble. Despite the successes of his channel, his performance on the court was one to forget.

During the 12 games (eight seeding games, four playoff games) he played in Orlando, he only scored 45 points. That’s an average of 3.8 points per game. Even worse, he only scored 7 total points during the Sixers four-game first-round loss against the Celtics. On a Sixers team that desperately needs offense even when Ben Simmons is healthy, having a player with these kinds of offensive limitations makes it difficult to win. Even more concerning is that this poor performance was no outlier, but rather a common theme we saw throughout the season.

Through his 65-game rookie campaign, Thybulle averaged just 4.7 points per game. Not only was his scoring low, but he also shot just 42.3 percent from the field. Pitched in the draft as a 3-and-D wing, he attempted just 2.4 3-pointers a game and made only 35.7 percent of them.

At least the “D” of 3-and-D appears to be translating very well so far. Thybulle was one of the most impressive rookies on defense. FiveThirtyEight rated him with the highest total defensive RAPTOR of any rookie. Thybulle isn’t the tallest wing at 6-foot-5, but his 7-foot wingspan makes him a defensive nightmare. Thybulle’s long arms and great defensive instincts make him a shot-blocking threat any time he’s on the floor. His 0.7 blocks per game may not pop out at you, but he also had a BLK% of 3.1, about the same as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Serge Ibaka.

Thybulle’s crazy wingspan also allows him to be very disruptive in passing lanes. His 1.4 steals per game was the most by a rookie and second on the Sixers (Ben Simmons averaged 2.1). Thybulle has really active hands when he’s facing his assignment, but he’s especially deadly when he’s trailing the ball handler. Even if it’s just off a screen, if Thybulle gets behind the ball handler, he becomes much more of a threat than usual. That long wingspan allows him to reach around and poke the ball out of the hands of his assignment.

Thybulle has the ability to make an All-Defensive team in the near future, but there are questions about his future in the NBA. If he’s only able to contribute at one end of the floor, it really limits his usefulness for a team with championship aspirations. With a new coach heading to Philadelphia, change is on the way, and Thybulle may be on thin ice.

What does Matisse Thybulle struggle with on offense?

Thybulle struggled tremendously on offense at times last season. He shot just 33.3 percent on layups this past season, a whopping 22.2 percentage points below league average. He was making 3-pointers at a higher percentage than layups! When Thybulle gets around the basket, his mechanics disappear. He does anything to avoid contact with the defender, which often leads to ugly misses.

The failure by the Sixers to surround Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid with shooters reared its ugly head once again, eliminating them before the Conference Finals for the third straight year. Philadelphia took just 31.6 3-point attempts per game, the eighth least in the league. With just 31.5 percent of their points coming off 3-pointers (18th in the NBA), it seems obvious that will be one area Lue will be focused on improving. Unfortunately, Thybulle’s shooting, similar to his finishing, is not there yet.

Right now, his numbers aren’t horrible. His 36.7 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s shows some promise of him being a stationary shooter. Every single one of his 56 3-pointers this season was off of an assist. Things get ugly quick when Thybulle puts the ball-down. He made just 1-of-10 pull-up jumpers last season.

His inability to hit shots consistently is killing the Sixers. This season, Thybulle’s most frequented five-man lineup was alongside Simmons, Furkan Korkmaz, Tobias Harris and Al Horford. In the 156 minutes this lineup played together for, they only scored 101.8 points per 100 possessions. A large part of their low efficiency was thanks to the 35.2 percent they shot on 3s. This lineup performed so poorly because it didn’t space the floor at all. Outside of Korkmaz, the other four Sixers in that lineup shoot the 3 below 36 percent. While Harris and Horford may be statistically decent shooters, the defense would much rather let them shoot than free the lane for Simmons to drive. You can see how much defensive attention Simmons gets, sometimes drawing as many as three defenders when he’s in the lane.

With him desperately needing a reliable source of offense, the corners are showing some promise. The corners appear to be the most favorable part of Thybulle’s game. He’s shooting above league average in both of them, with the left corner at an efficient 43.8 percent.The only issue is the volume. Thybulle shot just 55 corner 3s this past season. Why shoot 46 more above-the-break 3s when you’re shooting them at 32.7 percent?

Now, the strange shot-selection could have been a Brett Brown issue rather than a Thybulle issue. Even so, there’s not a lot of evidence that Thybulle’s ceiling as a shooter is much higher. His senior year of college was his worst shooting season, where he shot 30.5 percent on 4.2 attempts. Oddly enough the left corner — where he shot the most efficiently last season — was the area he shot the worst during his senior year.

The fate of Thybulle’s future as a Sixer now lies almost entirely in the hands of whoever the next coach of the 76ers is. With the 21st overall draft pick, Philadelphia has plenty of high-scoring wing options that could be available on draft night. With Thybulle already struggling to get minutes over Korkmaz at the backup 2, drafting a high-scoring shooting guard would essentially be a death sentence. The Sixers also have the option of trading Thybulle away to a team willing to give away offense in exchange for his unique defensive skill-set. But in the event that Thybulle remains a Sixer, I see a clear path to him not just surviving but becoming a reliable two-way player.

The most simple way Thybulle can keep himself in the rotation is by continuing to make his corner 3s. He shows his basketball IQ most often on defense, but he’s a smart offensive player as well. As the Sixers seemed reluctant to draw anything up for him, most of his corner opportunities come from leaking out there in transition or taking advantage of a lazy defender. Even so, Thybulle finished as one of the top corner 3 shooters in his rookie class. With a history of inconsistencies, making this his spot would be key to his survival.

Thybulle shoots the catch-and-shoot corner 3 with confidence and discipline. His release point is high and he gets the ball out quick even when he’s open. But when he gets above the break or puts the ball down it all falls apart. The most noticeable thing is that the shot slows down considerably. In the last clip he tries to shoot around a close-out defender, pulling the shot left. Even when he’s not in the corner, Thybulle should aim to shoot all of his shots with the same rhythm. If he can take above the break 3s with confidence and shoot pull up jumpers in rhythm, Thybulle can be of much more value to the Sixers.

Lastly, the Sixers should find more opportunities for Thybulle to cut to the basket. He took just 13 cutting layups and dunks last season. For someone who is struggling to finish at the rim, making these opportunities as simple as possible is key. He missed just one of these attempts all season. There is a responsibility here on Thybulle to remain aggressive on offense and take advantage of gaps in the defense.

If Thybulle can find ways to be a reliable option of offense, there should always be a spot for him in the rotation. But as the Sixers enter a new era next season, the pressure will be on for him to perform.

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