Matisse Thybulle did not work out for a single NBA team leading up to the draft Thursday night. He didn’t need to.
The 76ers had made their interest in Thybulle known so early in the predraft process that it wasn’t necessary for the senior prospect out of the University of Washington to show off his skills.
Elton Brand, the Sixers general manager, was going to do whatever it took to get Thybulle, even if it meant calling Celtics GM Danny Ainge. Even if it meant letting go of one of the Sixers’ high second-round picks. In the end, that’s what it took. The Sixers sent the the 24th and 33rd picks in the draft to the Celtics to move up to No. 20 and pick the guy who had been on the Sixers’ radar for four years.
Well before the draft, there were rumors that Thybulle had been promised a selection by the Sixers. He pretty much confirmed that shortly after he was picked.
“Philly showed interest early, and we just trusted them and decided we were going to put our faith in them and just kind of shut things down and see what happened on draft night,” Thybulle said Thursday night. “They stayed true to their word, and yeah, the rest is history.”
The Sixers likely tipped their hand so much that it gave Boston the kind of leverage it would need to get what it wanted. Had the Sixers kept their intentions closer to the vest, Thybulle could have been available at 24 and the Sixers wouldn’t have had to send a second-round pick to Boston. The Celtics turned around and used that 33rd pick to take a guy high on the Sixers list: Carsen Edwards from Purdue.
If Thybulle ends up being the defensive juggernaut that his collegiate years suggest he will be, then the loss of the 33rd pick will be mostly a non-issue. That’s a big if, though. There’s always a chance that Thybulle won’t pan out and that the players who were taken at 24 (Ty Jerome) and 33 (Edwards) end up being meaningful NBA contributors.
The idea that there’s always a chance that a late first-round selection or a high second-rounder could fall flat has another side to it. There are always players taken in that same range who end up being important pieces on NBA teams. It’s a numbers game trying to hit on the right players. The more picks you have, the higher your chance of getting a player who can be a legitimate rotation piece.
Before the night was over, the Sixers had sent Jonathon Simmons and the 42nd pick to Washington for cash considerations. The Sixers also sent the fourth pick of the second round (No. 34) to Atlanta for the 57th pick and two future second-rounders. They then shipped the 57th pick to Detroit for a 2024 second-round pick and $2 million.
The reasons that the Sixers made these moves are pretty clear. Whether they were the right decisions remains to be seen and is open for discussion.
Giving up Simmons and the 42nd pick allowed the Sixers a little salary-cap flexibility for next season. Because the Sixers took Thybulle at 20, which carries a larger guaranteed salary than the 24th pick, the savings from Simmons’ salary is not going to be even as much as it seems.
“I need every dollar that I can get,” Brand said.
The Sixers GM wasn’t talking only about salary-cap money. The cash considerations received in the deals with Atlanta and Washington cannot be used to pay players’ salaries. But that money can be used to pay penalties for going above the apron and into the luxury tax should the Sixers end up in that situation next season. Additionally, unsigned second-round picks do not count against the salary cap.
So, rather than have a higher chance of hitting on a second-round player, the Sixers chose to save money.
As with most trades and NBA moves, these decisions will take time to be judged properly. If Thybulle is a rotation player who adds depth and the Sixers are able to re-sign Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris and make another run at a title, it could all seem worth it.