As the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament rages on, the San Antonio Spurs should keep a close eye on Washington forward Matisse Thybulle.
If recent history is any indicator, the San Antonio Spurs have likely spent recent weeks scoping out prospects throughout the Pac-12. General manager R.C. Buford has struck gold when drafting from the Conference of Champions, selecting at least one player from the Pac in four of the last five NBA Drafts.
With a blatant need for defensive help on the wing, San Antonio may look to a familiar program in the University of Washington. Senior forward Matisse Thybulle, a 6-foot-5 defensive menace, has quite literally stolen the attention of NBA front offices everywhere for his dynamic ability to hound opposing ball-handlers and force turnovers.
Thybulle has nabbed the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award in back-to-back seasons and put his defensive prowess on display during Washington’s imposing victory over Utah State in the opening round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament. The senior posted a loaded stat line with 10 points including two triples, three rebounds, two assists, five steals and three blocks.
Matisse Thybulle has been ? on defense.
— Stadium (@Stadium) March 22, 2019
Even before his journey into the realm of professional basketball, it’s clear that Thybulle has a knack for identifying the tendencies of his opponents. This attention to detail would align nicely with the values instilled by Spurs architect Gregg Popovich. San Antonio hit the jackpot by selecting Dejounte Murray from Washington in the 2016 NBA Draft and would benefit greatly from pairing the two lockdown defenders.
Offensively, Thybulle is still a generally raw prospect with tremendous offensive upside. The career 36 percent three-point shooter has noticeably declined from deep in his senior year, hitting only 31 percent of his ranged attempts. For as concerning as this may seem, it’s not totally unprecedented and shouldn’t impact the way San Antonio views him moving forward. Shooting coach Chip Engelland is a historically renowned shot doctor and would likely help Thybulle turn that jumper around with relative ease.
Shot creation isn’t necessarily his forte, but Thybulle has shown flashes of aptitude as an offensive firecracker. What sets Thybulle apart from his peers is his energy and motor. By combining his high basketball IQ and freak athleticism, Thybulle is a threat to shut down his opponent on one end of the court and throw down a monster jam on the other.
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San Antonio is ranked No. 26 in transition offense with just 10.5 fastbreak points per game. Adding a two-way playmaker of his caliber could be crucial in furthering the underlying youth movement in the Alamo City.
For the first time in a long time, the Spurs can address multiple positions of need in the draft because of the capital acquired in the DeMar DeRozan trade. With that in mind, Buford can afford to take a flyer on a potential rotational player of the future. Even if he doesn’t develop into a star player, Thybulle could solidify himself as an integral role player for years to come.
The organization that drafts this Washington-phenom will have the chance to groom him into any multitude of playstyles. He could go to 3-and-D route like a Robert Covington or Trevor Ariza or become a sheer defender like Tony Allen.
Who know, maybe Pop can put the young fella to work and turn him into the next Kawhi Leonard. Only time will tell.