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Matisse Thybulle, no longer untouchable, drawing interest from Warriors and Kings

With the trade deadline approaching, sources say the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings are among NBA teams interested in Thybulle. But this might be a bad time for the Sixers to move him.

Matisse Thybulle (right) of the Sixers and Seth Curry of the Nets go after a loose ball during the 2nd half of their game at the Wells Fargo Center on Jan. 25, 2023.
Matisse Thybulle (right) of the Sixers and Seth Curry of the Nets go after a loose ball during the 2nd half of their game at the Wells Fargo Center on Jan. 25, 2023.Read moreCharles Fox / Staff Photographer

Remember when Matisse Thybulle was untouchable?

The 76ers told the Toronto Raptors that same thing when the Sixers were trying to acquire Kyle Lowry prior to the 2021 NBA trade deadline. They also declined to include him in the package to acquire James Harden from the Brooklyn Nets at last season’s deadline.

But all that seems like decades ago for a guy who no longer has the same equity with the franchise. As a result, one has to wonder whether Thybulle could be moved for the right price on Feb. 9 ahead of the NBA’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.

Multiple NBA sources said the Golden State Warriors have had internal discussions about Thybulle and that they do like him as a defensive stopper. The Sacramento Kings are also reportedly monitoring his availability. A league source confirmed the interest, saying Kings coach Mike Brown is a fan of Thybulle, who would add a defensive presence to Sacramento’s starting lineup. The Kings (28-21), who surprisingly sit at third place in the Western Conference, are pondering upgrades for a postseason push after an NBA-record 16 straight seasons without a playoff appearance. The Kings’ and Warriors’ interest makes sense and is something to pay attention to.

» READ MORE: Sixers vs. Magic takeaways: Lacking finish, Embiid still has love for Fultz, and Thybulle needs minutes

But with eight days before the deadline, teams still have plenty of time to decide in which direction they want to head.

As for the Sixers (32-17), they are in need of a towering backup center to help with a deep postseason push. They also want to eliminate some salary to get below the luxury threshold. That’s why Furkan Korkmaz, who is making $5 million this season, and Jaden Springer, whose salary sits at $2.1 million, have been mentioned as guys the Sixers have considered trading in order to shed the $1.1 million needed to get below the league’s $150.3 million threshold.

Thybulle’s $4.3 million salary could also be an option. And his shift from Mr. Untouchable to Mr. Expendable is also far from surprising. He had not progressed offensively to the Sixers’ satisfaction since the conclusion of last season. In the postseason, Thybulle was left wide open while defenders left to double-team his teammates.

So Thybulle was shopped last summer. Sources said the Sixers even attempted to trade him to the Portland Trail Blazers on draft night as part of a three-team deal that would have brought the Houston Rockets’ Eric Gordon to Philly.

Realizing he had to get better, Thybulle spent last summer working out with the Portland Trail Blazers’ perennial All-Star Damian Lillard and renowned shooting coach Phil Beckner in Phoenix, among other cities. He also went to Los Angeles to work on his ball handling and finishing around the basket with Chicago Bulls All-Star DeMar DeRozan. They worked out under the direction of ball-handling wiz Johnny Stephene, aka Dribble2Much and HandleLife Johnny.

Despite that, the Sixers operated like the two-time second-team All-Defensive selection was a non-essential player at the start of the season. When finally given extended opportunities, Thybulle performed better than the offseason acquisitions brought in to replace him in the rotation. His defensive prowess, especially against elite guards, is hard to duplicate.

» READ MORE: The Sixers’ defense is in disarray — and one big answer to their problems is sitting on the bench

So the Sixers, who have aspirations of winning their first NBA title since 1983, must ponder if they can realistically afford to move him.

A lot of preseason hype and early-season minutes went to offseason three-and-D acquisitions P.J. Tucker, De’Anthony Melton, and Danuel House Jr.

Melton, who has started 37 games, has been a solid addition at shooting guard. However, Tucker, a starting forward, hasn’t made the impact that was expected. And the best way to describe House’s shooting is inconsistent. So Thybulle has supplanted House, a swingman, in the rotation.

All things considered, the Sixers would be better off extending his minutes instead of trading him. The knock on Thybulle is he’s an inconsistent shooter. But the Sixers are 18-4 when he plays at least 12 minutes, including 10-0 when his minutes increase to 20 or more.

And even if they do attempt to trade him, the market might not bring back enough in his place. At the moment, multiple league sources said Thybulle’s lack of consistent production has lowered his trade value. The sources said, at this time, they wouldn’t give up a first-round pick for him.

However, one of the sources said the Sixers could’ve sold Thybulle’s potential and gotten value for him in return a couple of seasons ago. Right now, the source added, there’s still concern with his reduced role and inability to make shots in the postseason.

Thybulle is averaging career lows in points (2.7), rebounds (1.2), assists (0.5), steals (0.9), blocks (0.5), and minutes played (12.1). But he’s averaged 7.3 points while shooting 57.1% from beyond the three-point line along with 2.7 steals and 11.9 minutes in the Sixers’ last three games. On Monday, Thybulle had 10 points on 3-for-5 shooting, including going 2 of 3 on threes, along with two assists and two steals in a 119-109 loss to Orlando Magic. One of the few bright spots, he was a plus-six in 11:19 of playing time.

The Sixers could’ve used Thybulle more on Monday, especially when their defense started to disappear.

» READ MORE: Matisse Thybulle could be most improved Sixer after a summer of putting in the work

Coach Doc Rivers even acknowledged his presence.

“We just feel like that’s a good zone group, especially when Matisse is in the game,” Rivers said. “We don’t do it a lot because he and [De’Anthony Melton] aren’t on the floor together. But when they’re on the floor together, that’s our best zone group. But any time Matisse is on the floor, it’s a good zone group.”

Thybulle also recently had a standout moment on offense when he posted 10 points while knocking down 2 of 4 wide-open three-pointers in a 137-133 victory over the Brooklyn Nets. That night, he made the Nets pay for leaving him open.

“They didn’t want to guard me,” he said, “and realistically, I just took advantage of that. At the end of the day, I work out, I play hard, I know how to play basketball. So it’s like if you don’t want to respect me as a player, I can show you that I’m capable.”

But will he continue to show what he’s capable of with the Sixers? Or will he be charged with taking on that battle for another team?