Thybulle fits the bill of a Sam Presti target almost to a tee. Standing 6’5” with a 7-foot wingspan, he’s the reigning Pac-12 defensive player of the year award winner (see: Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson for past winners). He was also the first major conference player to average over 3 steals and 2 blocks per game since at least 1992-1993 per basketball reference (that’s as far back as their records go for these numbers):
He’s not the best shooter in the draft, though far from the worst. He shot only 30.5% on 3-point attempts last season, but was a career 35% shooter. His free throw percentage was 78% (85% career). Per Tankathon, he projects as an above-average 3-point shooter statistically and may have just suffered a down season in his senior year. Given that he was a senior, he may not have the most potential of any of the available players but could also be more ready to play right off the bat.
Another possible weakness is that Thybulle played a lot in a zone defense for Washington. He’s shown the ability to switch a bit on screen and roll however, and his activity on defense is pretty remarkable. In watching highlights it’s hard not to see some similarities to a smaller Roberson (who also shoots much better from everywhere). This is from a few seasons ago (credit to the Stat Nerd Draft Report), but note how he manages this screen and creates a play.
Thybulle sounds a bit like a “Thunder guy” who is lower key in personality and who fits the bill on court for the most part. Sam Vecenie of The Athletic wrote about him in February after talking to a few anonymous scouts and coaches:
“I love Thybulle. His floor is Thabo Sefolosha. He’s that good of a defender. It’s crazy to say that about someone who plays in a zone, but his instincts are off the charts. Big-time measurables. Really good leaping athlete. Big hands.
“He’s a better shooter than I want to give him credit for. I want to hate on him, but I think he’s career 38 percent. I don’t think he has the intangibles of a worker or a guy that takes it seriously. If he wanted to, he could dominate games. But then every time I look, he’s averaging 9.7, 10, 11.3 (points). He’s never getting elite numbers. (But), I think he’s an NBA player. He’s a much better offensive player than Andre Roberson. Definitely a better shooter. Better all-around offensive game. (Roberson) was drafted solely because of his defense and rebounding.
“He comes across as reclusive, a bit. He’s just a different kid, though. He likes poetry. Great kid, but once you get to the NBA, that has to be your full-time deal. You can have the other stuff, but it has to be in the background if you want it to be a good player.”
“I like him more than anyone else on Washington because of his defensive potential. His length, he gets his hands on every ball. I know it’s different because he plays in zone, so I would love to see him play man-to-man, but that won’t happen in college.
“The thing about him is he can make shots, too. All the NBA scouts said after our game that if he makes shots, he’ll be drafted late first, early second round because of his defense. His attributes in terms of his size, length, and athleticism, then you put him making shots, he’s a perfect 3-and-D type.”
Is Thybulle a perfect prospect? No, but that’s always hard to find at the back end of the first round. What he may be is a player who can contribute right away to a winning team by playing high level defense and hitting some shots. Those are two skills the Thunder could definitely use.