WILMINGTON, Del. — GM Elton Brand had to trade a second-round pick to the Boston Celtics to move up to No. 20 to draft Matisse Thybulle.
At the time, there was concern that Brand had showed his hand with his interest in Thybulle, allowing Danny Ainge to take advantage of the situation.
If Thybulle plays in real NBA games the way he did at the Sixers’ annual Blue x White Scrimmage Saturday, nobody is going to care about that extra pick.
On a day where we got our first look at the Sixers’ gigantic starting five at the 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington, Delaware, that wasn’t the story.
It was the rookie out of Washington that stole the show.
I hated him on defense. I hate him,” Ben Simmons said with a laugh. “So far he's been amazing. His length, the way he plays the game, he runs the floor, makes the right reads and he can just play the right way.
Simmons wasn’t the only one to have high praise for Thybulle. Everyone that spoke during the postgame availability was asked about Thybulle — and they were all glad to heap praise on the 22-year-old.
Coming into his first NBA camp, gaining the respect of his veteran teammates was his goal.
“It's a good feeling and that's what you set out to do when you get here,” Thybulle said. “That was my goal through open gym and training camp and this game, was just trying to like feel for myself I belong but just establish for the rest of guys I fit in with them. To hear you say that they're saying that is a pretty good feeling.”
If you saw Thybulle play at Washington, you would’ve seen this potential. If you’ve been following along during camp, none of this surprising.
In the first quarter Saturday, Thybulle had a nice strip of Al Horford but then front rimmed the dunk on the ensuing fast break. That was truly the last low moment of Thybulle’s day.
The second quarter was the Matisse Thybulle Show. He wrecked the game for Simmons and the Blue squad. There were at least 10 instances in which Thybulle got his hands on the ball defensively in the second period alone. And even that feels like a conservative guess.
The highlight of the day was when Josh Richardson thought he had a wide-open transition three on the wing. Thybulle came out of nowhere to smack the ball a few rows deep into the crowd. It was a highlight reel among the countless plays Thybulle made Saturday.
“At practice, we chart and reward in the way that we score games, deflections. And he shines in that area in practice,” Brett Brown said. “And there was clear carryover to this game. And oftentimes deflections can produce steals, too. When you charted, and we did, the number of times he got his hand on balls or came up with steals, it was elite.”
While he did make a couple nice offensive plays — a three off the dribble and a spinning floater in the third quarter — that’s not his forte. He was drafted as a wing with 3-and-D potential. That’s the role that Brand and Brown envisioned.
The lack of offensive game is part of what led him to becoming such a willing and strong defender. He learned at a young age that the defensive end of the floor is where he’d earn minutes.
Offense never came naturally for me as a kid,” Thybulle said. “So my dad would always just harp defense because he's like as long as you can play good defense there'll always be a place for you on the court. And just from a young age, I took that and just kind of ran with it.
Sure, it was just a scrimmage but it certainly isn’t isolated. This was what Thybulle did in college. This is what he’s been doing during training camp. This is why Brand was willing to part with an asset to a rival to make sure he got Thybulle.
In a game-like atmosphere, Thybulle looked like a guy ready to help a team with championship aspirations.
“We know in training camp it's been hard for guys to get like a flow or rhythm because there's been so much stoppage,” Thybulle said. “So it was fun to just get out there and get a feel. And yeah, just wreak a little havoc.”
If Thybulle considers what he did Saturday a “little havoc,” him wreaking a lot of it must be something.
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