January 31, 2023
If the Sixers are going to swing a trade for a real-deal addition to the rotation, it may take offloading Matisse Thybulle to make it happen. And according to Marc Stein's The Stein Line on Substack, there's at least one team ready and waiting if Philadelphia opts to move Thybulle pre-deadline.
Per the legend Stein himself:
Sacramento is said to be monitoring the availability of Philadelphia's Matisse Thybulle as the Kings, unexpectedly holding the West’s No. 3 seed after a league-record 16 consecutive seasons out of the playoffs, ponder the pursuit of a more defensive-minded option on the perimeter. One source with knowledge of the Kings' thinking, meanwhile, insists that rival teams hoping for Richaun Holmes to become a buyout candidate if Sacramento can't trade him (as mentioned here last week) are poised to be disappointed. A buyout would be complicated for both sides with two years and nearly $25 million left on Holmes' contract after this season. [Stein]
The topic of trading Thybulle is a divisive one around these parts. His boosters are deadset on playing him 20+ minutes a night no matter what and his detractors are ready to put him on the first flight out of Philly for whatever the team can get for him. Is there a middle ground to be found? There certainly should be.
Lineup numbers paint a rosy picture for Thybulle, suggesting he is one of the most impactful minute-to-minute players on the team, only slightly denting their offense while giving a big lift to the defense. There is something to be said for hanging onto as many impact defenders as they can get their hands on, given the potential issues they might run into as a result of playing James Harden and Tyrese Maxey heavy minutes. Thybulle can cover up weaknesses and juice up the opponent's turnovers basically by himself, and in certain matchups, he can (and has) served as a game-shifting option off of the bench.
On the other hand, there are some troubling underlying concerns within those numbers, namely Thybulle's propensity to foul and his complete nonexistence as an offensive threat. He has begun trending in the right direction as of late, with Thybulle up to 33.3 percent from deep on the year, but even that number is far too low for teams to treat him like a real threat from deep. Barring a dramatic uptick down the stretch of this year, you run the risk of teams packing the paint and daring Thybulle to beat them in the playoffs, complicating life for the guys who want to use the middle of the floor (e.g. Harden, Embiid, and Maxey). Based on Philadelphia's desire to upgrade their three-and-D options pre-deadline, it seems clear that trust in Thybulle is limited.
But Thybulle is certainly good enough to escape, "Great trade, what'd they get?" analysis. Limited though he may be, he has certainly proven capable of impacting games. And therein lies the problem with a Thybulle trade, particularly one with a good team — can you ship him out and actually get better?
The value in trading for Thybulle is probably less about acquiring him for a run this year and more about securing the right to match any offer he gets in restricted free agency. Perhaps you could talk the right team (even the Kings) to surrender a late first-round pick or early second for that privilege, and while that'd be a nice return, you're left to wonder how that helps a Sixers team trying to win a title right now. The Kings aren't likely to sacrifice draft capital plus any of their presently useful players just to go and get Thybulle, and that makes life tough for the Sixers. Are you willing to chase max return on Thybulle while losing an option in the rotation? That feels unlikely. Maybe you could spin picks into a multi-team deal with more players outgoing and incoming, but that's a much more involved consideration than this.
There's also the salary factor. In the final year of his rookie deal, Thybulle is making just under $4.4 million, so the sort of player he would return in a deal straight up is another player of his profile: young, somewhat flawed, and perhaps headed toward a bigger payday. For the Kings specifically, straight-up deals would only work for Alex Len or Terrance Davis, neither of whom is a needle-mover. In a deal involving the players we mentioned as outgoing candidates previously (House, Korkmaz, Springer), there isn't much changing, as many of Sacramento's players are duplicative with talent on hand in Philly.
Even if there's not a direct fit here, interest is a good thing, as it puts a bit more pressure on any potential suitors/bidders to up the ante. We'll see where Daryl Morey lands on Thybulle by next Thursday.
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