Al Horford speaks out on Matisse Thybulle not making Rising Stars Challenge
Matisse Thybulle of the Philadelphia 76ers was not named to the Rising Stars game during All-Star weekend, which is meant to showcase the up-and-coming young stars in the NBA. While big names such as Luka Doncic, Trae Young and Zion Williamson will be represented, Thybulle was snubbed and his 76ers teammate Al Horford was not pleased about it:
Al Horford said he was disappointed & surprised Matisse Thybulle didn't make Rising Stars team.
Said Matisse is ‘part of a winning team & having a real impact.’ And ‘what are we rewarding’ if we’re not recognizing defense?
'He deserves to be there.'
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) February 1, 2020
Indeed, while scoring and being a “big name” player are certainly important to a young player’s cachet, if they cannot reasonably defend their position (or more in Thybulle’s case), then their impact on the court will surely be muted and they won’t necessarily be a top-tier player in the future.
Thybulle, for his part, is already one of the best defenders in the NBA at the ripe old age of 22, and he is surely one of the best players in the league at creating defensive events (blocks and steals), yet the NBA still obviously preferred offense-first players in the Rising Stars game to create an entertaining and free-flowing game.
While the argument can be seen from both angles, Thybulle’s numbers are certainly impressive from an advanced statistics perspective. In NBA history, only one player before Thybulle produced both block rates and steal rates higher than 3.5 percent: Gerald Wallace of the Charlotte Bobcats in 2005-06.
Thybulle is only playing 20.1 minutes per game, yet the rookie is 13th in the NBA in steals per game (1.6) and 17th in total steals (64).
Certainly, Thybulle is a terrific piece for a contending team like the 76ers, but the NBA likely didn’t want its young stars getting blanketed by a terrific defender like Thybulle so leaving him off the Rising Stars team is understandable.