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February 01, 2023

NBA Trade Rumors: Could Sixers, Warriors find workable Matisse Thybulle trade?

Golden State could be a suitor for Sixers' defensive guru Matisse Thybulle.

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Sixers-Pistons-Matisse_Thybulle-1_012821_Kate_Frese24.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 28: Matisse Thybulle #22 of the Philadelphia 76ers warms up before the game against the Detroit Pistons on October 28, 2021 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. (Photo by Kate Frese/PhillyVoice)

Ahead of his first crack at free agency this summer, Matisse Thybulle's agent appears to be working overtime, reminding everyone that there's an opportunity to get Thybulle before he seeks a payday. And with the Sixers short on rotation players they can afford to move while searching for upgrades to the team, Thybulle's name continues to pop up in discussions around the league.

Here's today's dispatch at the Inquirer:

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. [Inquirer]

We already touched on the Kings portion of this when Marc Stein reported that news yesterday. A few points of note before moving on:

  1. Thybulle was ineligible to play in home games in New York City last season as a result of his vaccination status. While in talks with Philadelphia, the Brooklyn Nets had exploratory talks with teams around the league to potentially re-route Thybulle, and that layer of complication is part (certainly not all) of why he stayed in Philly.
  2. Thybulle not being moved in moves for Kyle Lowry or James Harden does not mean he was ever untouchable, it means they did not include him in those trades. This is best illustrated by the following bullet point.
  3. When the Sixers came close to trading for James Harden before he left Houston, Thybulle and Ben Simmons were both contacted by their agents to prepare for a trade to Houston. 

Anyway, on to more pertinent news.

As noted in this space on Tuesday (and weeks prior), Thybulle is one of Philadelphia's most interesting players heading into the deadline. There are plenty of scenarios where he offers a change-of-pace off of the bench, a different dynamic to the team that they could need during this (and future) playoff runs. Teams like the Celtics boast multiple capable wing scorers, and even if Thybulle is just somebody to bring in so you can show a different look, he offers a brand of defensive chaos that is hard to find elsewhere (internally or externally). Zone defense (gag) is going to be more effective with his length and activity at the top of a zone, and Philadelphia has been one of the most zone-heavy teams in the league as of late. 

On the other hand, Thybulle is a below-average shooter, foul-prone in big moments, and a free agent in the summer. For a Sixers team that will be expensive regardless of what happens with Thybulle in restricted free agency, the prudent move may be to simply move on from him now to recoup whatever you can get, at least if he's not in the long-term plans. There doesn't seem to be a ton of faith in Thybulle as a playoff-caliber shooter, and whether he has improved his touch recently or not, it's near-certain that teams will continue to ignore him on offense in the playoffs. If you believe that will doom the offense during stretches where he plays, it's time to move on.

Golden State is an interesting team to consider. In theory, sticking Thybulle next to the greatest shooting backcourt of all-time helps to take some of the pressure off of him, and with teams focused on the Curry/Thompson combo flying around the perimeter, it's possible Thybulle could make a bigger offensive impact as a cutter in their motion offense. I think that's probably generous — Thybulle has far less utility than someone like Gary Payton II, who thrived in San Fran despite being a low-volume shooter — but the Warriors are desperate for NBA-caliber players as they run up against the problems of the repeater tax.

There's an easy one-for-one swap sitting there if both teams had an interest: Thybulle for Moses Moody. The rare "both teams sell low" trade!

Moody, a late lottery pick in 2021, was viewed as a pro-ready guy coming out of Arkansas despite being tremendously young for his class. He was expected to be a readymade three-and-D guy, showcasing catch-and-shoot potential combined with awesome tools (Moody has a wingspan of 7'1") to help him as a switch defender and weakside help defender. The reality has been a bit different than that. Moody's three-point numbers have been slightly above average, matching his college three-point shooting rather than the free-throw percentage (81.2%) many saw as an indicator of future success. 

That has made it harder for him to stay on the floor with the Warriors, as his contributions elsewhere have been far more erratic, leaving Moody stuck behind players like two-way signing Anthony Lamb, who has outshot the alleged three-and-D guy. Desperate for contributors, the Warriors have DNP'd Moody in six of their last 10 games and even went as far as sending him to the G-League for playing time.

Swapping Thybulle out for Moody would give the Sixers two more years to try to unlock Moody (making just $3.7 million this season) before making a decision on him, while also giving them the better-shooting prospect with (at least in theory) the physical traits to be a two-way player. Thybulle is inarguably the more impactful player at this very moment, and for a Warriors team that increasingly looks like it is on borrowed time, that might be enough to make a trade that would have felt inconceivable on draft night.

The trouble for Philly is that Moody's issues in Golden State are just as glaring here. Trying to bring along a 20-year-old kid on a team that wants to compete for a title is a tall task. Perhaps you could argue the switch to Philadelphia's offensive system, one with less demanding responsibilities, would simplify life for Moody, allowing him to hone in on the defensive work he has to do. But the Sixers are after more complete products, entering the deadline with many of the same desires as Golden State, making it hard to see the vision here. I'd like Moody as a long-term bet, but Thybulle gives you better title odds right now. Plus, I can't see Golden State wanting to pay him in the summer. 

Check back in tomorrow, when we undoubtedly discuss another Thybulle deal between two teams who probably can't help one another get better at the same time.

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