By Torey Jones
Contributor, 750 The Game
This past off-season, the Dallas Mavericks gave Matisse Thybulle a 3-year, 33 million-dollar offer sheet. Since Thybulle was a restricted free agent, Portland had the option to match his contract offer and keep him in Portland, which they did. While Thybulle has been a solid role player in Portland, there’s a chance they could move him at the trade deadline, and the outcome of Thybulle’s restricted free agency this past off-season created a couple of interesting wrinkles in that regard.
First, Thybulle can’t be traded to the Dallas Mavericks for the entire calendar year, which ends and restarts with free agency at the beginning of July. Second, Thybulle has a no-trade clause, meaning he has a right to approve or deny any trade he’s a part of. So if Joe Cronin elects to shop Thybulle at this year’s trade deadline, he’ll have to find a landing spot where Thybulle would want to get traded. But should Cronin trade him in the first place?
This is the second of our four-part series looking at the Trail Blazers potential moves going into the February 8th trade deadline.
The Case for Keeping Matisse Thybulle
The case for keeping Matisse Thybulle is a strong one. He has improved his 3-point efficiency, shooting 38.8 percent for the Blazers last year and 36.6 percent this season. He’s an elite defensive playmaker as a menace in the passing lanes, racking up steals and deflections at one of the highest rates in the league. For years Portland has struggled on defense, so trading away a player with Thybulle’s defensive instincts appears counter-intuitive.
The Case For Trading Matisse Thybulle
While Thybulle will make the flashy defensive play that catches your eye, he needs to be more solid at little things. He’s often out of position trying to gamble for steals or play the passing lanes, and it leads to open shots or driving lanes for the player he’s guarding. He closes out too hard and gets beat off the dribble doing so. Portland needs players who don’t give up dribble penetration, as they give up the third-highest rate of shots at the rim in the league. Toumani Camara and Rayan Rupert are younger wings who project as positive defenders that could fill Thybulle’s role long-term. There were reports that Thybulle wanted Portland to decline his offer sheet and let him walk to Dallas, so questions remain over whether he wants to be in Portland or is simply keeping it professional while wishing to play for a winning organization.
The Blazers should shop Thybulle, but they don’t have to trade or keep him. Thybulle is the caliber of player that can be replaced, and the best move may be to clear his minutes to develop longer, more defensively sound players in his place. However, it doesn’t make sense for Portland to dump his contract outright, but they should be able to find a team desperate enough for a defensive upgrade to give up something of value for Thybulle.
Portland’s asking price should be simple: a first-round pick. Getting one back, though, may prove difficult. The Blazers gave up two second-round picks for him at last year’s trade deadline, and with Thybulle making $11 million a year, getting back more value than was given up to get him is a tough ask.
Top Landing Spots
Milwaukee Bucks – Milwaukee could be in the market for a defensive playmaker like Thybulle, and the downside of his gambling would be minimized with a rim protector like Brook Lopez. The Bucks don’t have any first-round picks to trade but could put a package together consisting of Pat Connaughton, MarJon Beauchamp (a young defensive wing), and second-round picks.
Sacramento Kings – Sacramento could be in the market for a defensive-minded wing to complement offensive-minded counterparts such as Harrison Barnes, Kevin Huerter, and Malik Monk. Sacramento could offer a first-round pick between 2028 & 2030, filler salaries such as Chris Duarte and Alex Len, and secondary assets such as second-round picks or Colby Jones (the 34th pick in last year’s draft).
Indiana Pacers – The Pacers are like the Blazers from yesteryear. They’re one of the best offenses in the league but horrid defensively (ranked 27th in adjusted defensive rating). With defensive stalwart Bruce Brown gone after he was traded for Pascal Siakam, Indiana could be in the market to replace his role with a player like Thybulle. Indiana can trade a 1st round pick between 2028-2030. Still, a more realistic package would include one of T.J. McConnell, Jalen Smith, or Obi Toppin to match salary with other smaller assets thrown in, such as Isaiah Jackson or second-round picks. However, there is a creative option at their disposal.
My Favorite Trade
Portland Trail Blazers Get: Isaiah Jackson, Damion Lee, Right to Swap a 2029 1st Round Pick with Indiana (if Indiana’s pick is outside the top 10), $10.5M Trade Exception
Indiana Pacers Get: Matisse Thybulle, Nassir Little, Two second-round picks from Phoenix
Phoenix Suns Get: T.J. McConnell
Portland has three first-round picks in 2029: their own and two unprotected picks from Boston and Milwaukee. Getting the option to swap any of those for a better first would allow Portland to continue maximizing their future draft capital in a way where Indiana wouldn’t be giving up a first outright. It’s highly unrealistic for Portland to get the upside of swapping into the top 10-12 range for a player of Thybulle’s caliber, so the best option would be the right to swap any of Portland’s three firsts in 2029 for Indiana’s assuming their pick is outside the top 10. Still, this may be a little rich for Indiana.
Isaiah Jackson is a promising young big man who may have fallen out of the rotation in a crowded frontcourt consisting of Pascal Siakam, Myles Turner, Jalen Smith, and Obi Toppin. This type of buy-low target shores up a Portland frontcourt that is regularly ravaged by injuries. Portland also gets a $10.5 million trade exception, which can be used as free agency money under the new CBA for teams over the salary cap.
Phoenix is an excellent option as a third-team for T.J. McConnell, as they’ve been tied to him all season and need a point guard. While he’s been a good veteran mentor in Indiana (and could be a solid option for Portland to replace Malcolm Brogdon with), he’s expendable, with Tyrese Haliburton and Andrew Nembhard squarely in front of him.
Of Portland’s potential trade candidates, Matisse Thybulle is the hardest player to get a read on. I could see Joe Cronin electing to trade him or keep him long-term, and with his no-trade clause as a factor, it’ll be interesting to see how things play out with Thybulle over the next three weeks.