CAMDEN, N.J. — It’s fair to question the Sixers’ draft strategy — whether you’re unhappy with the trade up or the selling of second-round picks.
It did appear that Danny Ainge and the Celtics got the better of Elton Brand, causing the Sixers to surrender a second-round pick in order to move up and get their man. Just another feather in Ainge’s cap when it comes to dealing with the Sixers and draft picks from the University of Washington, right?
But before we go too far off the rails with that thought process, let’s consider the fact that Matisse Thybulle may be the perfect young player to come in and help the Sixers.
At pick No. 24, the Sixers were unlikely to draft a star nor did they need to. They have at least two of those already. They need players to fill in the gaps and play a role. Thybulle, a 22-year-old, four-year college player, seems like an ideal fit in that regard.
While Thybulle took a backseat offensively during his senior season at Washington, he stepped his defensive game up even more, earning the Lefty Driesell Award as the top defensive player in the country. He put up super gaudy steal and block numbers while wreaking havoc in the Huskies’ zone. Let's not forget that defense is pretty damn important, as our NBC Sports national NBA insider Tom Haberstroh wrote.
Unlike some young players that may want to come in and do things outside their abilities, Thybulle understands who he is and what he brings.
"Knowing your role is a huge thing, in college and in the league,” Thybulle said Friday. “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."
Thybulle spoke to reporters at the team’s practice facility in Camden after a whirlwind 24 hours. He came across just as Brand had portrayed. He’s mature, smart and thoughtful. There’s a confidence there, but not cockiness. He has a belief in himself but is self-aware and understands his strengths and weaknesses.
From a personality standpoint, it’s easy to see why Brand and company fell in love with the kid so early in the process.
And, oh yeah, he’s pretty good at basketball.
“Actually we’ve been following him for the last four years as staff — me, the last two years,” Brand said. “Got to meet with him in April. Saw his workout. That said it all. Interviewed him. High-character guy and that’s what we need to add to our team. His on-the-court stuff just blew me away — his speed, his agility, his sense of the ball on defense, his offense and where he’s growing as a player. After that workout, I was blown away.”
Theoretically, Thybulle is an excellent fit with the Sixers’ young core. Every team is looking for 3-and-D wings. The Sixers have been since they traded Robert Covington to the Timberwolves in the Jimmy Butler deal. Thybulle has the look of a player that could take on that role.
He shot the ball extremely well in his first three years at Washington, hitting 37.9 percent of this threes and 75 percent of his free throws. It’s a little concerning that Thybulle’s perimeter shooting went down as a senior (30.5 percent from three), but he did shoot a career-high 85.1 percent from the line. That’s an indication that the shot is not broken … repeat, NOT broken.
Brand was targeting Thybulle along — promise or not — and you can see why.
The feeling was mutual.
“I mean, what’s not to like?” Thybulle said. “They’re a great team. Great coaches. Across the board. Just throughout the season, being a basketball junkie, watching basketball, I watched Philly and just keeping track of their success and being like, ‘Wow, it would be incredible to be a part of something that great.’ And then when that became a reality and they made it clear that they were interested … there’s nothing else I’d rather be a part of than this.”
While you may not have been a fan of the trade up or the selling of second-rounders, it’s hard not to like Matisse Thybulle’s fit with the Sixers.
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