Should the Sixers Trade Matisse Thybulle at Thursday’s Trade Deadline?

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA’s trade deadline is at 3 p.m. on Thursday. The Philadelphia 76ers will be among the teams searching for upgrades throughout the roster. President of basketball operations Daryl Morey will be hard pressed though due to the team’s lack of high-value trade assets. However, there is one name being floated around that could help them acquire a meaningful rotation piece before the deadline.

Matisse Thybulle has been dangled about in trade rumors for much of the past year. His defensive abilities are well documented. He has twice been named to the NBA’s All-Defense Second Team. For his career, he is averaging 3.6 steals and 2 blocks per 100 possessions. He is also a key to the Sixers’ zone defense whenever they go to it. Having Thybulle and De’Anthony Melton, both excellent perimeter defenders, gives the team flexibility to go to zone defense more often than they have in prior years.

Thybulle’s offensive production is another thing entirely. He immediately made a big impact defensively after being drafted in 2019, but has yet to make the necessary development on the other end of the floor. The best offensive numbers of his career came in the 2021-22 season when he averaged a meager 5.7 points on 50% shooting from the field. He is neither a high efficiency or high volume outside shooter, shooting 32.5% on 2.1 attempts from beyond the arc for his career. His numbers on shots around the rim (defined as less than five feet from the basket) have also regressed. After shooting a career-high 74.5% around the rim last season, he is now shooting a career-low 58.1% on those shot attempts.

Playing with him on the floor essentially allows the opposing defense to play 5-on-4. That issue is especially exacerbated by having the same problem whenever P.J. Tucker is on the floor. Thybulle’s lack of offensive impact has, in prior years, caused concern about an ability to stay on the floor in the postseason.

The lack of offensive utility played a large part in why Thybulle’s role has been vastly reduced this season. After averaging 21.8 minutes per game his first three seasons in the league, he is now playing just 12.1 minutes per night this season. This came partially as a result of the offseason acquisitions of Tucker, Melton and Danuel House Jr. to the roster. After once being viewed as an untouchable player, the team’s offseason moves clearly showed he fell to the bottom of the rotation. However, he did supplant the struggling House Jr., although he still plays a minimal role.

However, his defensive abilities are hard to replicate. Despite the offensive struggles, the Sixers have proven they can win at a high percentage when Thybulle has an increased role. This season, they are 19-4 in games Thybulle plays 12-plus minutes and 10-0 in games he plays 20 or more minutes.

The 25-year-old’s contract is also expiring after this season. He will be a restricted free agent this coming offseason after failing to agree to an extension before the Oct. 17 deadline on rookie-scale extensions.

Rounding up the reports involving Thybulle

Thybulle’s name has generated a ton of buzz throughout the final days leading into the Feb. 9 trade deadline.

On Jan. 30, NBA insider Marc Stein reported in his Substack newsletter that the Sacramento Kings were interested in acquiring Thybulle.

“Sacramento is said to be monitoring the availability of Philadelphia’s Matisse Thybulle as the Kings, unexpectedly holding the West’s No. 3 seed after a league-record 16 consecutive seasons out of the playoffs, ponder the pursuit of a more defensive-minded option on the perimeter.”

Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer followed that up with a report on Feb. 1 stating the Golden State Warriors “have had internal discussions” about Thybulle. He also confirmed the Kings’ interest in Thybulle.

“Multiple NBA sources said the Golden State Warriors have had internal discussions about Thybulle and that they do like him as a defensive stopper. The Sacramento Kings are also reportedly monitoring his availability. A league source confirmed the interest, saying Kings coach Mike Brown is a fan of Thybulle, who would add a defensive presence to Sacramento’s starting lineup.”

Pompey also reported that Thybulle “had not progressed offensively to the Sixers’ satisfaction since the conclusion of last season.” Thybulle’s lack of offensive growth, detailed above, played a large role in his diminishing role on the team.

On Feb. 4, Stein reported on his Substack newsletter the Atlanta Hawks joined the teams interested in Thybulle heading into the trade deadline.

“Sources say that Atlanta has joined Sacramento as a confirmed suitor for Philadelphia’s Matisse Thybulle. I don’t know that the Hawks will be the ultimate landing spot, but I’ve been advised that the prospect of Thybulle getting traded before Thursday’s buzzer is very real.”

The interest in Thybulle is high amongst teams around the league. However, the potential return in any trade could be subpar. In Pompey’s report detailing the Warrior’s interest in Thybulle, he also delves into the potential return in a Thybulle trade.

“And even if they do attempt to trade him, the market might not bring back enough in his place. At the moment, multiple league sources said Thybulle’s lack of consistent production has lowered his trade value. The sources said, at this time, they wouldn’t give up a first-round pick for him.

However, one of the sources said the Sixers could’ve sold Thybulle’s potential and gotten value for him in return a couple of seasons ago. Right now, the source added, there’s still concern with his reduced role and inability to make shots in the postseason.”

How should the Sixers handle the Thybulle dilemma?

It might be difficult for the Sixers to gain something of high value in a straight one-for-one swap involving Thybulle. Thybulle’s $4.4 million salary vastly limits what the Sixers can receive in return. Due to the Sixers being a team currently over the luxury tax line and the NBA’s salary rules, they would only be able to receive 125% of the outgoing salary they send out plus $100,000. In a straight swap, this would limit the Sixers to receiving roughly $5.6 million of salary in return.

However, he could be included as part of a larger package at the trade deadline. Pompey reported on Monday Furkan Korkmaz is requesting to be traded. In the report, he writes Korkmaz “was informed that Morey will try to package him in a deal.” Packaging Korkmaz ($5 million salary) and Thybulle together would allow the Sixers to receive at most roughly $11.85 million of salary in return.

The Sixers will have an interesting decision to make in the coming days regarding Thybulle’s future with the team. The team has to weigh his role in a potential postseason run against whatever return they could get from trading him at the deadline. His contract expiring, and their decision on whether or not to re-sign him in the offseason, also will heavily factor into the front office’s decision on what to do with Thybulle.

Thybulle still has some value to the Sixers due to his defensive ability. However, it would make sense for the Sixers to explore trading him due to the combination of his limitations on offense and his contract expiring. However, the Sixers should only pull the trigger on a Thybulle trade if it brings back a meaningful upgrade in return.

Ultimately, a lot is up in the air regarding Thybulle’s future with the team. What happens around the trade deadline will go a long way towards shaping his future with the Sixers.

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