There are only 2 games remaining in the Sixers’ regular season before the team gets set for a playoff run. The margin for error has never been thinner for this team. With the Eastern Conference contenders either catching up or completely passing them in the standings, Philadelphia can ill afford something that puts them at a competitive disadvantage. Unfortunately for them, they just found something that cost them not only a game last night, but could end up costing them their season. If that sounds overly dramatic, it’s not. The Sixers are not the best team in the Eastern Conference. They may not be in the top 3. Now that it has been revealed that Matisse Thybulle is ineligible to play in games in Canada, the Sixers are in some dangerous waters.
Earlier this week, as the Sixers prepared to travel to Toronto to take on the Raptors, rumors swirled that there may be a player or some players on Philly’s roster that would be unable to make the trip because of Canada’s stricter mandates surrounding vaccination status. Sure enough, when the injury report came out ahead of that contest, Matisse Thybulle was listed as “ineligible to play”, a revelation that came as a shock to anyone who has followed the Sixers this season. The shock comes not just because of the general likability of Thybulle, who seemed to be one of the easiest people to root for in Philadelphia sports, but also because the initial thought when those rumors began circulating was that it was probably a bench piece or a late edition to the team like DeAndre Jordan. The time for surprise, though, is over. It doesn’t matter whether or not it seemed likely that Thybulle was the player ineligible to play, the fact of the situation is that he is that player.
Of all the players that the Sixers could be without in the 1st round, Thybulle is in that upper echelon. Not only is he one of your 5 starters, but he plays elite perimeter defense on a team that is very bad at defending the perimeter. He could be the least valuable starter when looking at his total ability on the floor, but he is certainly the best wing defender available, and the drop off between him and the next best option is immense. This forces Danny Green into the starting lineup, and we all saw how that worked at points during the 2021 NBA Playoffs. Green isn’t unplayable, but he also isn’t a defensive force like Thybulle is. It’s a definite disadvantage for a team that frankly can’t afford another one right now. If the season ended today, the Sixers would face off against the Toronto Raptors in round 1 of the playoffs, meaning that there could be up to 3 games that Matisse Thybulle would not be able to play. It could make a major difference in that series, and was certainly part of the reason that the Raptors dispatched the Sixers last night.
This is not a vaccine related argument, make no mistake. Matisse Thybulle has every right to not get the vaccine. The issue here is that Thybulle’s decision has now put his team in jeopardy of losing in the first round of the playoffs. If Matisse Thybulle woke up yesterday and just decided not to play basketball anymore, it would be bad for the Sixers’ chances. His not being eligible to play in Canada has that same effect. The cause doesn’t matter; all that matters is what the result means for the team, and in this instance, it’s certainly not good.