Stop me if you’ve heard this before; the 76ers trade up with the Celtics to select a player from the University of Washington.
Yes, that happened two years ago in 2017 when the Sixers acquired Markelle Fultz first overall. Fultz is no longer on the team. The stakes were much lower at the 2019 draft; Philadelphia only gave up the 24th and 33rd overall picks for the 20th selection. This time they selected Matisse Thybulle. The 22 year old, 6’5″ wing is regarded as one of the best defenders in this year’s class. He averaged 3.5 steals and 2.3 blocks per game in his senior year.
In selecting Thybulle, the Sixers are affirming their team identity; defense first.
“For me defense is effort, and I can bring effort day in and day out,” Thybulle said after being selected.
The upside on defense is really exciting. He boasts a 7’0″ wingspan, and is a very mobile and rangy player. A lineup consisting of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Zhaire Smith, and Thybulle, along with Jimmy Butler or Tobias Harris, should either re-sign, would be an absolute terror to play against.
Offensively, Thybull is far from a complete player. He lacks any real semblance of shot creation for himself, but is a good overall athlete who can play above the rim. He was an 85% free throw shooter last season, which is a good indication of a shot being fundamentally sound. The Sixers could also just use a good free throw shooter; they were 16th in the league last year.
As for his immediate contribution, Thybulle will most likely compete with Zhaire Smith for backup minutes in the rotation. Johnathan Simmons is no longer a factor in that battle, as the team traded him last night along with a 2nd round pick to Washington for cash considerations.
With the 54th overall selection, the Sixers picked Marial Shayok, a guard who played at Iowa State last year after three at the University of Virginia. He was a 38% three point shooter during his college career. He didn’t see big minutes until transferring to Iowa State, but his scoring leaped in a big way from 8.9 points per game to 18.7
“We got two players who really fit our culture, really can grow into this, and be part of us as we make this push,” General Manager Elton Brand said of the team’s draft.
Ultimately the Sixers addressed key needs on their team, regardless of what eventually happens in free agency. They need guards who can defend and score enough to be playable in the late rounds of the playoffs. They had that in Landry Shamet last season before trading him away. In Brand’s first draft as GM, they did reasonably well in that regard.