HOUSTON — Matisse Thybulle is unquestionably one of the NBA’s elite defenders. He also relishes being one of the 76ers’ dependable role players.
But creating havoc on defense isn’t the only thing the second-year NBA player wants to be remembered for in five seasons.
The reserve guard wants people to say his overall game kept growing.
“I love my role and have a lot of pride in doing it well,” Thybulle said. “But as a competitor, as a basketball player, the reason I got to where I am now is because I’ve constantly tried to grow and expand my game.
“So as I love all my titles and accolades that people are talking about right now, [he wants] just to continue to expand.”
Expanding his game would involve becoming more of an offensive threat.
The 24-year-old takes averages of 4.0 points. 1.9 rebounds, 1.0 assists, league ninth-best 1.6 steals, and 20.1 minutes into Wednesday’s game against the Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center. Despite his limited minutes, Thybulle is the only NBA player averaging at least 1.6 steals and 1.1 blocks this season. And he’s sixth in the league in deflections per game (3.1) and first in deflections per 36 minutes (5.6).
However, he’s shooting just 30.1% on three-pointers. That’s an area he’s focused on improving during the offseason. Consistently knocking down threes would enable him to become one of the league’s elite three-and-D players. Thybulle would thrive for seasons to come playing alongside All-Stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and standout Tobias Harris.
Being recognized as a two-way threat would be new for Thybulle.
At Washington, he was both the Naismith defensive player of the year and Lefty Driesell Award as the nation’s top defender during the 2018-19 season. He also won the second of two consecutive Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors.
This season, he’s drawing some consideration for NBA defensive player of the year even though Simmons and Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert are the overwhelming front-runners. Thybulle is also a candidate for the NBA All-Defensive team.
Homecoming for Daryl Morey
Wednesday’s matchup against the Rockets was a homecoming for Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey.
Morey spent the previous 14 seasons with Houston, serving the final 13 as the team’s general manager. The Rockets’ 640-400 record during Morey’s GM tenure was the second best by an NBA team in that span.
NBA COVID-19 updates
Four players have returned confirmed COVID-19 positive tests of the 492 players tested since last Wednesday.
Any NBA player, coach or staff member with a confirmed positive test or has been identified as being in close contact with an infected person is put in the health and safety protocols. That person quarantines until cleared by the rules established by the National Basketball Players Association and the NBA.