The summer of 2021 was important for Matisse Thybulle. For the first time, he dressed to compete in the Olympics, as he headed to Tokyo to represent the Australian team. He played a valuable role for the Boomers and came home with a bronze medal, an even more special achievement as it was the first ever Olympic medal for Australian men’s basketball.
As questions regarding Ben Simmons ‘current situation and his absence from training camp lingered throughout the Sixers’ media day on Monday, Thybulle had other interesting topics to discuss. As well as talking about what’s going on with Simmons (like pretty much everyone, including Joel Embiid), Thybulle got to talk about his time at the Olympics and share what he can take away from the experience.
âIt was a great opportunity to play basketball more,â Thybulle said. âOnce you get to that level, it’s rare that you can play in a situation where you can sort of step out of yourself, you can have the opportunity to expand your role and experience other things in a game frame.
âSo the Olympics was a great opportunity for me to do that and also be one of the focal points of the team. Manage that, then use it to learn more about myself, my game, and push the boundaries of what I was able to do last season, then use it as a kind of place to grow.
Thybulle made some offensive progress in a few areas last season. While his three-point shot remained at 30.1% on 2.2 attempts per game, he showed a bit more ability to use his grip, beat the fence and find openings as a cutter. With his improved cut, he also finished more effectively, as he achieved a career-high 74.2% of his attempts within 3 feet of the basket (up from 65.3% as a rookie). Most of his attempts on the rim are still straightforward, but any continued growth in these areas will help him play a bigger role and gain extra minutes.
Of course, Thybulle’s three-point shooting is still the most important skill left for him to develop. It’s something that he stays focused on polishing as much as he can.
âIt’s definitely an area of ââgrowth for me and a focal point of my game that I’m looking to improve,â Thybulle said. âThe Olympics was a great opportunity for me to go out in a different setting and build my confidence, I guess. Because that’s such a big part of the shoot, right? Believe in yourself to take the hit and do the hit. All players have their ups and downs, but for me it’s just about trying to have more ups than downs and then using that belief and turning it into confidence, then turning it into results.
Thybulle was one of the best talents in the Australian squad, and with that, there were a few more hits. In his six competitive games in 23.3 minutes, he averaged 7.8 points, up from 3.9 points in 20 minutes per game last season with the Sixers. He also added 5 of 12 shots from beyond the arc in Tokyo. Obviously, this is a small sample in a completely different setting. It doesn’t mean much. But Thybulle still drove and cut aggressively, moved the ball well and shot with confidence in his exhibition outings and games at the Olympics.
Again, as Thybulle said himself, building on that trust would help. While increasing its efficiency is the key (duh), even being more ready to shoot from threesome at a higher volume and requiring less space / time to shoot would be a useful development. Defenders are more likely to close on shooters who are at least happy to pull the trigger without stalling.
Thybulle also improved his defense last season (although his late foul on a three-point attempt in Game 7 against the Hawks may be the freshest defensive play on some people’s minds). He reduced his faults, improved his game on the ball, made fewer misguided bets for interceptions and blocks, and generally played with a bit more discipline. Given that he also elevated his defensive play during the process (with career highs of 2.9 steals and 2 blocks per 36 minutes), the fact that he may have been more disruptive than ever and making fewer mistakes is awesome. He’s a remarkable defender and he’s already made some improvements, rightly earning his first All-Defensive second-team nod last season.
Thybulle was never going to make it to the Olympics without racking up a ton of flights, either. It’s no surprise that he led the tournament with an average of 3 per game.
He was asked how he could transfer his more aggressive game from international play to the NBA. âJust find my nicheâ¦ Now prove to myself that I can do it,â Thybulle said. âThe FIBA ââgame is very different from the NBA game so I was able to find my places and now it’s just a matter of coming back here and playing with very different players in a very different system. and find it on my own. . But also all the time knowing that I am capable of it.
With Ben Simmons absent, it should be easier for Thybulle to find his way to more minutes. The Sixers will need Thybulle’s defense even more, and the offensive concerns of playing him next to a no-gap manager will be gone. That alone could help the third year wing have a bigger impact.
There’s no reason Thybulle couldn’t be in the mix to make another All-Defensive team. No one can wreak havoc around the perimeter, teleport all over the ground, and smash games like they can. If he can add offensive growth to that, perhaps building on a trip of confidence to the Olympics, he can take another step forward in 2021-2022.