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NBA Free Agency 2023: Dallas Mavericks intend to sign Matisse Thybulle to offer sheet

Thybulle is a highly regarded defender at a position of need for Dallas

Dallas Mavericks v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Restricted free agent forward Matisse Thybulle intends to sign an offer sheet with the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, TNT and Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes reported Wednesday morning.

Thybulle is a defensive-minded forward, who has been a second-team All-Defense selection twice in his young career (2021, 2022). He started in Philadelphia, as a defensive bench cog for some solid 76ers teams. He fell out of favor with the team over the last two seasons, averaging less than 20 minutes per game, before being traded to Portland at the trade deadline in February. For a tanking Trail Blazers team, he showed some growth as a shooter, shooting 38.8 percent from three on 3.9 attempts per game in 22 games to close out last season.

Terms of the deal haven’t been reported yet, but Thybulle would likely be taking some (or maybe all) of the Mavericks' non-taxpayer mid-level exception, which maxes out at $12.4 million a season. Portland has at least 24 hours to match since Thybulle is a restricted free agent, so it’s not a guarantee the Mavericks land him. Our own CBA expert, CBAMavs, has the details on what a max mid-level contract for Thybulle would look like per season.

Presumably, if the Mavericks are using the MLE on Thybulle, that would eliminate them from the Grant Williams chase, the other rumored forward the Mavericks were targeting. Boston would be in luxury tax hell if they matched a full-MLE offer for Williams, so the thought is that would be the best way to acquire him. Technically the Mavericks could pursue a sign-and-trade even with this Thybulle move, but with Boston not wanting to take back salary that would have to be a three-team trade to move the salary elsewhere, which makes the odds of a move less likely.

Obviously, the Mavericks need help defensively and Thybulle has been regarded as one of the better perimeter defenders in the league. For his career, he’s averaged a combined 2.3 steals and blocks per game (1.5 steals, 0.8 blocks), which is an absurd number for a player at 6’5 like Thybulle is. He’s a terror off the ball and in transition, a splash defensive playmaker, certainly something the Mavericks can use.

The two big questions for Thybulle, if Portland declines to match the offer sheet, are: 1. Can Thybulle thrive in a defense without a fearsome rim protector, and 2. Is any of his shooting improvement from Portland real? The first question concerns Thybulle playing next to Joel Embiid for most of his career — it’s easier to be a gambler on defense when you have one of the better rim protectors in the league backing you up. Thybulle was definitely more of a gambler than a 1-on-1 shutdown guy and with the holes the Mavericks still face elsewhere on the roster, we’ll have to see if Thybulle’s defensive game translates to Dallas. For the second question, Thybulle has basically been one of the worst offensive players in the NBA since he’s been in the league. He’s never averaged more than six points per game for a full season, his shot attempts for both twos and threes per 100 possessions would be the lowest of any of the Mavericks perimeter players on the roster. Obviously, Dallas doesn’t need more offense, but they do need fewer one-way players, and currently, Thybulle is certainly that.

The only glimmer of hope is that 22-game sample in Portland, where Thybulle not only made threes but actually took them at a much healthier rate. Perhaps a steady diet of open looks from Luka Doncic can help Thybulle grow there, but if the Portland shooting was a mirage, it won’t matter how good his defense is, Thybulle would get played off the floor in high-leverage situations. If Thybulle is just another piece in a continuing offseason for the Mavericks, it makes a lot more sense.