To many Sixers fans, Matisse Thybulle is a rising star. To the NBA’s assistant coaches, he apparently doesn’t satisfy that classification.
Thybulle was not one of the players named Friday for the Rising Stars Challenge on All-Star weekend.
He has 64 steals, 17 more than any other rookie, and 34 blocks. Thybulle also leads rookies in deflections (110) and defensive loose balls recovered (31). While he’s had occasional issues with overextending and taking his aggression a step too far, he’s done well in matchups against a variety of offensive threats, from Kemba Walker to Zach LaVine to Kyrie Irving, and is proud to not be a “one-trick pony” on defense. Opponents have only shot 39.8 percent when guarded by Thybulle.
"How can he not?" Brett Brown said when asked whether Thybulle deserved to be chosen for the Rising Stars Challenge. "I mean, really, how can he not? He's played incredible basketball. He has started a handful of games. Just connect the dots to when he plays X amount of minutes to what our record is — and we're a pretty good team."
As Brown alluded to, the Sixers have been very successful when Thybulle is on the floor for longer stretches. The team is 18-3 when he plays 20 or more minutes.
The best explanation for Thybulle not being selected — although it’s certainly not a good one — is that he only averages 4.9 points per game.
Of course, scoring is not the only indicator of a player’s value. Thybulle has been a slightly above-average three-point shooter overall (36.6 percent) despite slumping since his return from a right knee injury. More importantly, he’s been a key player for a 31-18 team, someone Brown has said he’s determined to develop with an eye toward a role in the playoffs.
Thybulle’s exclusion is not head-scratching or perplexing, because one can understand why it happened. It’s just an unfortunate sign that his unique defensive talents — his propensity for rearview blocks, materializing out of nowhere, and stunning opposing stars — are not appreciated as much as they should be around the league, or at least by assistant coaches.
There aren’t many players in their first or second year in the NBA who can fundamentally and immediately change a game, but Thybulle is one of them.
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