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76ers Rookie Matisse Thybulle Will Take on a Massive Role vs. Celtics

Philadelphia 76ers first-round pick Matisse Thybulle has had quite the emergence in year one. While his offensive value could use some work, the former Washington Huskies' defensive skill set translated excellently in the NBA.

Although at times Thybulle was punished by his over-aggressive defensive play before the NBA's restart, which resulted in fewer minutes from Brett Brown, the Sixers head coach is highly impressed with his rookie's improvements as of late.

Heading into the NBA's restart, Brett Brown made it clear that young players such as Thybulle and Shake Milton might have a hard time gaining his trust enough to be implemented into his postseason gameplan. After seeing what he's working with for the last eight games, however, Brown couldn't help but notice Thybulle's slight -- but significantly positive changes on the defensive side of the ball.

"I think I labeled him a reckless thief at the start of the year," Brown said in regards to Thybulle on Friday. "As the season has unfolded, and as the playoffs are right in front of us, the crazy swipes and a foul, being lifted off the floor with just a subtle up-fake, Matisse jumps and some good player like jumps into him and gets three free throws -- he hasn't been doing that."

Now that Brown sees Thybulle as a more controlled defender who plays with the same edge and aggressiveness, the Sixers head coach confirms that the rookie will play an essential role for Philly when they take on the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs next week. 

"I feel like he has really settled down as far as being able to be bounced around the gym," Brown explained. "I think that he's been leveled, he's thinking, and he's not as emotional. He's going to be huge -- I can't understate that. He is going to be huge as a defensive requirement, especially since you don't have Ben [Simmons]. With the great wing players the Celtics have in the upcoming series, [Matisse] is going to assume a massive role."

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_