Before the 2019 NBA Draft arrives, Peachtree Hoops will break down more than 70 available prospects with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks may look to do in late June.
This installment examines Washington wing Matisse Thybulle.
Of the multitude of players who did not participate in the NBA Draft Combine in May, Matisse Thybulle’s name was perhaps the most interesting. He is not viewed as a top prospect throughout the league, as a few of the others who skipped out are, and may or may not have a specific promise from a team in a spot he likes. It was an odd decision from the outside, though there are ample reasons why he and his representation would choose to forgo that opportunity.
A terrifying defender at the University of Washington this past season, there’s really nothing in his measurements or drills that would show teams what he could do from that perspective, and his defense-first game doesn’t exactly lend itself well to the Combine’s 5-on-5 setting. Instead, Thybulle and his agent will rely on the four years of film teams have for him as the 22-year-old forward enters the draft after completing his college career with the Huskies.
The numbers are very kind to Thybulle. He produced at an historic rate defensively as a key part of the University of Washington’s zone defense that terrorized opponents throughout the season and, while the ball didn’t necessarily go in the hoop for him as often as you’d like, the projections from his free throw shooting numbers are very positive for him as well. He shot just 31% from three this past season after being a quality three-point shooter in his first three seasons, but the 85% he shot from the line brings with it projections that he’ll be just fine as a shooter at the NBA level.
Thybulle is by no means a fantastic offensive prospect; if he were, we’d be talking about him in the top ten. He should be able to shoot the ball at a reasonable level with his history of quality three-point and free throw shooting. His release looks good on film and he’s a smart offensive player, making the extra pass where needed and doesn’t turn the ball over very much. He’s not necessarily a playmaker, but Thybulle will keep things moving and won’t gum up an offense. He’s not going to run a ton of pick-and-roll as a secondary creator, but he’s got enough handle to get to the rim off a closeout and enough athleticism to finish once he gets there.
The defense was wildly impressive in 2018-19. The steal and block numbers Thybulle posted as a senior were unmatched throughout the country as he showed off his unreal anticipation and instincts in the Huskies’ zone. How well those things translate to a man-to-man scheme in the NBA is an open question, as there have been quite a number of players who have seen their defensive production drop off dramatically when moving from a college zone scheme to an NBA man scheme.
His man-to-man work in previous seasons was spotty. His positioning will need some work after two years of playing in a zone and his defensive awareness will need to be monitored. He showed incredible leaps in that area over the last two years, but how well that translates back to a man-to-man scheme is up in the air at this point. From that perspective, it would have been nice to see him play some 5-on-5 at the Combine, to at least assuage some concerns about his man-to-man defense.
Thybulle has all the tools to be a highly switchable defender, with a reported 7’0 wingspan on his 6’5 frame. Washington switched heavily when they played man early in his career and he held up well enough across a variety of match-ups, using his length and lateral speed to both guards and strength and determination down low to box out big men. His help instincts weren’t very well developed at that point in his college career and he would sometimes get lost, switching when there was no reason to or not switching when he was supposed to.
How have those instincts evolved over the last two seasons and how well will they translate back to a man-to-man scheme? That’s the big open question with Thybulle on the defensive end and could severely hamper his value to a team that plays almost exclusively man. Should he be drafted by a team like Miami or Brooklyn, his zone acumen would be icing on the cake. However, even those teams only played zone for 14 and 10 percent, respectively of their defensive possessions this past season, by far the most in the league; he’ll have to show that he can hold up really well in a man scheme in order to be an NBA rotation player.
Thybulle has a very interesting 3-and-D skills package, but he’s still surrounded by question marks on both ends of the floor. His three-point shot needs to come along rather quickly and while the projectable numbers are strong, he struggles with confidence issues at times. He was a monster on the defensive end during his senior season, but the same skills that made him great may not be as applicable at the NBA level. If he’s merely an above-average defender and a decent three-point shooter without much else to give offensively, he’ll still have a role on an NBA team, but it won’t be the sort of 3-and-D star role he could fulfill if he reaches his potential on both ends.