It’s no secret that the Bulls could use some defensive help on the wing. Though guards Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso (when healthy) give Chicago plenty of punch on the perimeter, All-Star wings Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan have never been plus defenders. DeRozan, who spent time at small and power forward during the 2021-22 season, is a particularly vulnerable target for opposing offenses.
Extension-eligible Philadelphia 76ers wing Matisse Thybulle, fresh off an inconsistent third year with the Sixers, could be an excellent fit as a bench wing spelling LaVine and DeRozan. The 6’5” guard was floated as a potential trade target for the Bulls this summer, per Sean Deveny of Heavy.com. Deveny notes that Chicago GM Marc Eversley, while with the Philadelphia office in 2019, played a big role in Philly’s decision to trade for the draft rights to select Thybulle with the No. 20 pick out of the University of Washington.
Thybulle’s limitations on offense led Sixers head coach Doc Rivers to turn to an ancient Danny Green in the playoffs as Philadelphia’s fifth starter ahead of the 25-year-old two-time All-Defensive Second Teamer. Thybulle was a healthy scratch for half of the games during the Sixers’ first round matchup against the upstart Toronto Raptors (which Philadelphia won 4-2).
Though he may be one of the league’s best defenders (in 2020-21, Thybulle led the NBA in averaging 3.8 steals per 100 possessions and 5.6 deflections per 36 minutes), he has yet to log more than 25.5 minutes a game during the regular season due to an unreliable jumper. For his career, Thybulle is averaging 4.8 points, 1.9 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 1.1 assists, and one block. The past season’s numbers are in line with that: he averaged 5.7 points, 2.3 boards, 1.7 steals, 1.1 blocks and 1.1 assists.
Eager Sixers fans, whose hearts had recently been broken by another All-Defensive guard with the shooting yips, must have though Thybulle had turned a corner when he connected on 44% of his three-point attempts during the last 15 contests of the 2021-22 regular season. Sadly, that may have been just a fluke: Thybulle made just 28.6% of his triples during the 2022 playoffs.
But my goodness, the speed. Check out Thybulle’s recovery time here:
ridiculous defense/hustle from Matisse Thybulle pic.twitter.com/beDtHg6Zg7— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) March 21, 2021
Make no mistake, though: this is an elite defender, capable of effectively guarding everyone from Stephen Curry to Jayson Tatum, and given the arsenal of scoring that would theoretically surround him on Chicago’s roster, Thybulle could help accommodate for the club’s defensive lapses along the wing or in the front court as an occasional power forward. His 6′ 11″ wingspan, foot speed and athletic prowess allow him to cover many of the league’s top scorers. Both the 6’4” Caruso and the 6’6” Ball can defend bigger, heavier players, but neither has the length nor insane speed of Thybulle.
Granted, the Bulls were dead last in three-point shooting last season, and this signing would not address that side of the court. The team needs more shooters, too, without a doubt. But they could also use the help on defense. This year, Thybulle shot well from the charity stripe (79.1%) after a shaky prior two seasons. While he converted 50% of his field goals, he nailed just 31.3% of his 2.2 triple attempts.
He isn’t just a good defender. He’s an excellent one:
kawhi like defense on bradley beal from matisse thybulle here. wow pic.twitter.com/hVIFV3QTIV— drew (@Dcorrigan50) October 19, 2019
The Sixers are a team that could actually make sense as a potential destination for another Class of 2019 draftee, reserve combo guard Coby White. A Thybulle-for-White swap with perhaps a second-rounder cold work for this defense-starved Bulls fan.