Matisse Thybulle is a future Defensive Player of the Year

Jackson McCrae '23, Writer

Last season, Philadelphia 76ers guard Matisse Thybulle proved himself to be one of the best defensive rookies in history, earning nicknames like “The Disruptor,” “Mathief,” and even “Spiderman.” He is considered the best defensive rookie in his draft class by many analysts, and he is already considered to be among the top defenders in the NBA.

The fan-favorite guard has been a defensive force since the beginning of his basketball career, earning a scholarship to the University of Washington after being one of the top defenders in high school basketball. The trend continued at Washington, as Thybulle became one of the premier defenders in the nation, which led to him being taken with the 20th pick in the 2019 NBA draft by the Celtics (he was immediately traded to Philly). However, with a whole career ahead, many people wonder if he can make the leap from one of the best defenders, to the best defender, and obtain the coveted Defensive Player of the Year award.

Thybulle clearly has the ability and work ethic to be an NBA Defensive Player of the Year. His length, defensive instincts, and defensive enthusiasm are all valuable assets — assets that every Defensive Player of the Year has had, without fail. Thybulle could very well secure a Defensive Player of the Year award, and he has the numbers to back it up.

What Thybulle has done defensively is comparable to only the best defenders, both past and present. His 6’11 wingspan allows him to accumulate a ridiculous number of steals and blocks, as is shown by his 3.5 steals per game and 2.3 blocks per game in his final year of college. Thybulle was also two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and won the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award (given out to the nation’s best defender at the collegiate level), edging out players such as All-Rookie first team members Zion Williamson and Brandon Clarke, and fourth overall pick in the 2019 draft DeAndre Hunter.

Thybulle is sixth all time for most steals in an NCAA season after notching 126 in 2018-19. He has locked up NBA stars, including LeBron James, holding him to 17% shooting from three and a +/- of -22, in addition to forcing eight turnovers. Thybulle also passed former NBA Defensive Player of the Year and Hall of Famer Gary Payton in most steals in Pac-12 history, an outstanding accomplishment.

Thybulle being underutilized is the biggest reason as to why he is yet to shine at the NBA level. For example, Thybulle’s defensive per 36 numbers (the projected numbers a player would put up if they played 36 minutes) are better than reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year Giannis Antetokounmpo’s numbers, as Thybulle had 2.6 steals and 1.3 blocks per 36 minutes, to Antetokounmpo’s 1.1 steals and 1.2 blocks.

It is clear that Thybulle measures up to the great defenders in the NBA. As he continues to adapt to NBA level play, he will only become more disruptive. He has all the measurables, and his defensive numbers line up, and even surpass, the great defenders in the NBA past and present. His name will be prevalent in Defensive Player of the Year talks for years to come, and it won’t be long before he snags that honor.