Philadelphia 76ers second-year guard Matisse Thybulle prides himself on being a stellar defender in the NBA. In a league where shooting and offense overall are more glorified than ever, Thybulle tends to focus on shutting those offensive standouts down as he's always had a knack for swiping steals and blocking shots.
Just two years into his NBA career, Thybulle has already established himself as one of the NBA's best perimeter defenders. Despite playing roughly only 20 minutes per game and coming off the bench, Thybulle received a third-place vote on the Defensive Player of the Year ballot.
While Thybulle has certainly established himself as one of the better defensive players in the league, he's still got a lot to learn. As veteran stars tend to welcome the challenge of Thybulle guarding them, they know the second-year standout is looking to gamble so he can steal the ball or block a shot.
Therefore, an undisciplined Thybulle tends to find himself getting burnt or racking up fouls. In the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs, Thybulle had the opportunity to guard Washington Wizards stars Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal. A couple of games into the first-round series, Thybulle revealed that Beal taught him a valuable lesson on the court.
“[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.”
Although Thybulle and the Sixers took care of the Wizards' superstar duo of Westbrook and Beal in Round 1, Thybulle found himself facing another difficult offensive superstar in Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young for Round 2.
While Sixers guard Ben Simmons has been assigned to guard Young exclusively to open up each matchup since Game 2, Thybulle has had his fair share of bouts with the All-Star when Simmons switches off or picks up some rest. Thybulle has held his own against Young, but he's still learning a lot from the matchup, and he spoke about it on Sunday.
“[I'm learning] more discipline,” Thybulle admitted. “Just in the different ways how he draws fouls and things like that just trying not to play into his hand in that sense and stay as solid as possible while still making things hard for him."
Sixers center Joel Embiid credited Trae Young for his "basketball IQ" in the sense that the undersized guard knows exactly how to bait defenders into fouling him. Thybulle, who tends to gamble a lot, has been tricked by Trae Young a few times throughout the series and garnered some questionable foul calls.
While he never expected the matchup to be an easy one, Thybulle and the 76ers have held their own against Young throughout the series. Although the second-year Sixer is still learning to play more disciplined, he continues to establish himself as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league -- and he'll likely only get better from here.