Matisse Thybulle’s situation is rare among the 76ers’ first-round selections during Brett Brown’s coaching tenure.
The 6-foot-5 swingman from the University of Washington won’t have to become a face of the franchise. As a reserve on a championship-caliber team, Thybulle’s role is simple: play defense and hit three-pointers.
“That is what they have been telling me since summer league,” Thybulle said. “I am excited for that, because I think that is something I have been made for and I think I fit that role pretty well. … It is fluid, and things can change. But right now, I am excited to step into that role and do the best I can.”
Thybulle, third-year guard Furkan Korkmaz and second-year guards Zhaire Smith and Shake Milton will battle for minutes in the Sixers rotation this preseason. But one can assume Thybulle will get every opportunity to be in that rotation.
The Sixers moved up four spots in a trade with the Boston Celtics to get Thybulle with the 20th overall pick on draft night. Boston received the 24th and 33rd picks.
The Sixers promised Thybulle that they would draft him if he was still available when they selected. The 22-year-old, who started four seasons in college, fit in perfectly with the team’s defensive philosophy.
He was the NCAA’s Naismith Defensive Player of the Year last season. He also won the Lefty Driesell Defensive Player of the Year Award and his second consecutive Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honor.
Thybulle led NCAA Division I with 126 steals and averaged 9.1 points and 3.1 rebounds last season. He shot 35.8% from three-point range for his college career, including 46-for-151 (30.5%) last season. He can put the ball on the floor and pass, and was thought to be the best perimeter defender in the draft.
However, the Huskies played a zone defense. The Sixers and Thybulle aren’t concerned about how he’ll do playing man-to-man in the NBA. He actually thrived in man-to-man before playing zone.
“I am not too worried about being able to have an impact on this level on the defensive end,” Thybulle said. "I think just getting used to the slight variation of the rules, whether you can camp three seconds in the paint, how you can be a little more physical and at what times. [I’m] just trying to get a feel for that and using that to my advantage.”