CAMDEN, N.J. — Matisse Thybulle was asked the question, in one form or another, several times Thursday night and late Friday morning.
Can he help the Sixers immediately?
The first time he heard it, on a conference call from the draft in Brooklyn with reporters in Camden, he laughed. It seemed to be, from his perspective, a somewhat ludicrous question.
“Yeah,” he said. “I definitely plan on coming in and contributing. I don’t see why not. Defense translates, and for me defense is effort, and I can bring effort day in and day out. Three-point shooting is something that comes naturally to me and I think that will be a big asset with all the talented scorers we have, to surround them with shooters. I don’t think there will be a problem with me stepping in and contributing.”
General manager Elton Brand has the same expectations. He has a clear role in mind for Thybulle as a rookie.
“That was very important,” Brand said early Friday morning of Thybulle’s ability to make an impact right away. “As I’ve been saying all along, we have championship aspirations. A player that can come in right now, help us play defense — we know the wings we’re going to face in the East this year. To get the best defensive wing — he shot [35.8 percent in college] from three, and he can play. He can play. We needed him. We needed that type of toughness, we needed that type of culture. We need that piece that can step in right now.”
Brand is unconcerned with the fact that Thybulle played in a zone defense at Washington the past two seasons, and Thybulle isn’t worried either.
“For me, zone was cool because I got to chase the ball around a little bit,” Thybulle said. “I wasn't stuck on a man. You can be guarding someone and they're just sitting in a corner the whole game and you don't really get to impact the game defensively as much. … With that being said, I played man my whole life except for these past two years, so I'm used to it and know how to be effective in that."
Unlike some of the high-scoring, teenage players who were drafted Thursday night, Thybulle is familiar with not being the star. While he was by far Washington’s best player defensively, swiping an all-time Pac-12 record 331 steals and blocking 185 shots during his four-year career, he wasn’t the Huskies’ primary option on offense — that was sophomore Jaylen Nowell, the No. 43 pick in the draft. Thybulle averaged just 9.1 points per game as a senior on 7.5 field-goal attempts. He discussed making “certain sacrifices” for the benefit of the team.
"Knowing your role is a huge thing, in college and in the league,” he said. “I think that just preparing myself in college to know my role and be the best I can be at that role is going to set myself up well to be here."
The logistics of where Thybulle fits in the Sixers’ rotation should be more apparent once free agency concludes. With Thybulle and No. 54 pick Marial Shayok yet to sign deals, the team has only four players under contract for next season.
As Thybulle said to a scrum of reporters after his introductory press conference Friday, the latest installment in a hectic stretch for himself and the Sixers, “we’re going minute by minute at this point.”
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