WILMINGTON, Del. -- It hasn’t taken long for 76ers first-round draft choice Matisse Thybulle to earn some enemies on the court.
“I hate him on defense, I hate him,” All-Star point guard Ben Simmons said after the Sixers played a scrimmage on Saturday at the 76ers Fieldhouse, the home of their G League team, the Delaware Blue Coats.
Simmons’ comments drew laughter, but he then got serious while talking about the 6-foot-5 Thybulle, who the Sixers moved up to select 20th overall in June’s draft from the University of Washington.
“So far, he has been amazing,” Simmons said. “His length, just the way he plays the game, he runs the floor and can play the right way.”
While Thybulle literally stole the show with a handful of steals, another key training camp story of who will be Simmons’ backup at point guard continues to play out. Veterans Raul Neto and Trey Burke, former teammates in Utah, are the chief competitors.
Thybulle often covered Simmons in the first half and consistently drew applause from the near capacity crowd at the 2,500-seat arena.
“He is just long and is able to get his hand [on the ball]; I think he had like six deflections in the first quarter, that was crazy,” Simmons said. “Defensively, he is right there with the top guys and is only going to get better.”
Not that it mattered but the Blue team, which consisted of the starters and other reserves, beat the White team, 88-66. Thybulle played on White, which consisted of many of the top expected reserves.
“It was fun,” said Thybulle, who was the Naismith defensive player of the year as a senior and was a two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. “That is the way I like to play, that is the way I played in college. It was cool to be able to get out here with these guys at this level and do that.”
Thybulle’s offense is a work in progress. He scored on a traditional three-point play in the first half and hit a three-pointer over Al Horford in the second half, but it is his defense that will provide him minutes.
As for the backup point guard, coach Brett Brown says it is way too early to handicap this race between Neto and Burke, who both stand under 6-1.
“To say who won the tournament today, I don’t feel like it stood out too much to say that,” Brown said. “I think the competition is obvious, like those two at the moment, have the opportunity [for] one of them put their hand up.”
Burke is a better scorer, but Neto is more of a pure point, who sets up teammates and gets rid of the ball quickly. Neither will be a candidate for the all-defensive team.
In addition, Brown said others could get a look.
“Maybe Shake can come in there and do that,” Brown said.
Brown was referring to 6-5 Shake Milton, a second-year player who appeared in 20 games last season for the Sixers. Milton enjoyed a strong showing on Saturday. When asked if Milton is doing things to keep his name in the mix, Brown said, “For sure.”
Brown has stated that starting two-guard Josh Richardson could be a point guard candidate, but the Sixers coach says that is something he may employ later in the season.
So, until the Oct. 23 opener against the Boston Celtics, the battle -- especially among Neto and Burke -- will be eyed closely as will the continued defensive play of Thybulle, who doesn’t have to score much to earn a key role on this team.