Philadelphia 76ers second-year guard Matisse Thybulle is a defensive specialist. Since coming to the NBA through the first round of the 2019 draft, Thybulle was recognized as one of the best defenders coming out of the NCAA.
Now, he's working on being recognized as one of the best defenders in the entire NBA. Coming off the bench for the Sixers this season, Thybulle is actually a potential All-Defensive candidate.
But he's far from a perfect player, even on his strongest side of the ball. Thybulle has his weaknesses, and he learned a valuable lesson in Philly's first-round series against the Washington Wizards these past two weeks.
Being that Thybulle is the Sixers' best wing-defender coming off the bench, he draws immediate matchups against some of the best players on the floor. For the last five games, Thybulle was tasked with guarding Wizards superstar Bradley Beal.
“He’s actually one of the best scorers in the world,” the second-year guard claimed following Philly's Game 5 win on Wednesday. “He's a really high-level player, high-level competitor. His willingness to take on the challenge of scoring on me, Ben (Simmons), Danny Green, Joel Embiid -- he embraces these challenges.”
Although Beal got his numbers throughout the series, Thybulle and the Sixers did a solid job defensively overall. And not only did the second-year guard come out of the series with a team victory and a ticket to move on to the next round, but he learned a valuable lesson while guarding Beal.
“[I've learned to have] discipline,” Thybulle said. “When you guard guys that are that talented, the gambles I can get away with other guys in other situations aren’t gonna fly because they’re just too talented. He makes reads too quickly, and when you’re at that level, he knows the tendencies of the guys guarding him, and it definitely showed with how he attacked depending on who was guarding him. For me, ultimately just continue to be more and more disciplined.”
The road doesn't get any easier for Thybulle. After playing in a series against stars such as Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal, Thybulle will face Atlanta Hawks superstar Trae Young. In the first round against the New York Knicks, Young averaged just under 30 points per game in 36 minutes.
Beal might be the better and most experienced player overall between the two scorers, but Young offers yet another difficult challenge for Thybulle. Perhaps, the lessons he learned in the first-round series will help him translate better to the second-round series, which begins on Sunday.