Introducing the Pick | Examining Thybulle's Defense

by Brian Seltzer Reporter

The moment may have felt surreal to Matisse Thybulle.

For Elton Brand and the 76ers, the union sounded like it was a long time in the making. 

During his introductory press conference in Camden, Thybulle told reporters the reality of the Sixers acquiring him with the 20th pick in last Thursday's NBA Draft didn't hit home until the next morning, when he saw his new locker stall at the Training Complex.

"Knowing I have my place here among it all is pretty cool," Thybulle said. 

One of the biggest reasons why he now does? The defense he played in his four seasons at the University of Washington. 

Thybulle excelled on that end of the floor, amassing 331 steals for his career to surpass the Pac-12's previous all-time mark held by Gary Payton. The 22-year old also claimed conference Defensive Player of the Year honors each of his last two seasons, en route to winning the National Defensive Player of the Year award in 2019. 

The Sixers have been keeping tabs on Thybulle dating back to his freshman season in Seattle. Brand was sold after getting to know the prospect a bit, then later seeing him workout. 

"I fell in love," said the Sixers' General Manager. 

There were no questions about Thybulle's strong character, and his defensive profile most definitely checked out. He got experience playing in a switch-everything, man-to-man scheme under his first coach, Lorenzo Romar.

Thybulle then proceeded to thrive in the 2-3 zone scheme that Mike Hopkins, Romar's successor, implemented upon taking the reigns of the Huskies in 2017. 

Brand considered Thybulle the best defensive wing in this year's draft.

"His wingspan, his feet, he moves well, certain intangibles, hand speed, he did play zone mostly in college, but we can see where he was in the front of the zone, how he defended a lot one-on-one in those situations," Brand said. "When I was at [games] when we followed him, I really liked what I saw out there."

Per, Thybulle posted an individual defensive rating of 98.7 as a junior. He went on to lower that number to 88.0 as a senior. Both marks led the Pac-12. 

"For me, the way I always play defense is effort," said Thybulle. "I was blessed with some God-given ability and just my athleticism and size, and just putting that to good use. From a young age, my dad instilled in me that defense was a big part of the game and was going to be a big part of my success. I just kind of stuck with it. I think it worked pretty well."

Indeed it has. 

Given the Sixers' championship aspirations, it was no secret the team went into draft night seeking a polished prospect who could contribute right off the bat. They feel Thybulle has the chance to help them solidify their defense against some of the toughest wings in the Eastern Conference. 

Defensive pedigree and all, Thybulle is eager to join the fray.

"Throughout the season, being a basketball junkie and watching basketball, I watched Philly, keeping track of their success and was like, ‘Wow, it would be incredible to be a part of something that great," Thybulle said. "When that became a reality and they made it clear that they were interested, I was like there is nothing else I'd rather be a part of than this."


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