In the closing moments of the Wildcats hard-fought win over the Breakers on Friday night, Corey “homicide” Williams again found himself, like many of us, in awe of the spectacular Bryce Cotton.
But in life, excitement doesn’t always equal rational, especially when it comes to sporting moments where emotions run hot.
In the midst of Cotton’s brilliance and with his availability to play for Australia seemingly imminent, Williams stated that Cotton should make the Boomers final Olympic squad over 76ers guard Matisse Thybulle.
Sure, Cotton was his usual blistering self with the two-time NBL MVP adding 24 points and seven assists to aid the Wildcats to an 85-75 victory. But in the midst of that and the enthralment of the NBL, perhaps Williams missed Thybulle’s performance around six hours earlier.
Without stars Joel Embiid and fellow Aussie Ben Simmons (both out due to Covid protocol), Thybulle started for an undermanned 76ers who went in an underdogs in Chicago.
Starting at the two, Thybulle was the usual defensive demon that’s had him regarded as a top 10 defender in the NBA in just his second season. He recorded four steals in the first quarter alone, finishing with five for the match. He played the second most minutes for the 76ers and along with the steals, recorded 13 points and 4 boards on 5-5 shooting including 3-3 from three-point range.
It seemed weird timing for Williams to involve Thybulle in the debate given he’d just produced his best game of the season. But outside of Cotton and Thybulle’s exploits from isolated games yesterday, does Williams actually have a point?
No one’s debating the excellence of Cotton on the offensive end, no should really be comparing the two on that side of the floor. Neither should they be comparing the two on the defensive end.
But although Cotton may be a magician with ball in hand (perhaps the NBL’s version of a Kyrie Irving), is he going to be afforded the same luxury in the Boomers Olympic squad? Is he really going to be taking the ball handling duties over Simmons, Patty Mills or even a Joe Ingles? The short answer is no.
So therefore we’d asking him to play more off ball as a spot up shooter, something he’d be less effective at but likely still better than what Thybulle could bring.
Williams also mentioned that the idea of Cotton being a poor defender was a myth more than anything, stating he’s never really seen Cotton get abused on that end of the floor in the NBL.
Problem is the NBL isn’t the Olympics. Cotton would be a better alternative to Thybulle in the NBL and against 90% of most Olympic teams, but that doesn’t make him the right selection.
The Boomers aren’t gearing to try and beat minnow nations, they’re focused on competing and winning against the powerhouses of international basketball – the USA, Argentina and Spain.
Against those nations, Cotton would be relegated to watching from the bench, his lack of offensive role isn’t going to make up for the defensive liability against the world’s best players.
Meanwhile Thybulle has the opportunity to be Australia’s primary on ball defender, potentially allowing Simmons to use his energy and focus on playmaking on the other end of the floor.
If the Boomers are serious on winning a medal at the Olympics, which should be the goal at the minimum, then Thybulle is the obvious choice. He’ll provide value in big games, Cotton won’t. It’s the same reason why one is in the NBA and the other isn’t.
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