Dodgers pick their basketball starting 5

March 23rd, 2023

This story was excerpted from Juan Toribio's Dodgers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With the March Madness Sweet 16 tipping off on Thursday, some curiosity came to mind. If the players inside the Dodgers’ clubhouse created a basketball team, who would be in the starting lineup?

Perhaps more importantly, who would be the last player on the bench? You know, the player that you wouldn’t want to see on the court, but the member of the team who has the best celebrations and keeps the energy high. To find the answers to those questions, we went around the clubhouse and asked about 20 players who their choices were.

Here’s what they came up with.

Mookie Betts, Point Guard
Well, this one was easy. Just about every player in the clubhouse voted Betts, a very talented high school player, to be this fictional team's point guard. The scouting report from his teammates was that Betts has the necessary quickness to get his own bucket and can facilitate once he gets in the paint.

Now that we got this obvious one out of the way, let’s move on.

Trayce Thompson, Shooting Guard
Having four-time NBA champion Klay Thompson as your older brother definitely didn’t hurt Trayce’s case to be this team’s starting shooting guard, but the Dodgers’ outfielder can hold his own on the basketball court, according to his teammates.

Trayce got the majority of votes at the position, though he didn’t add himself to the team. Instead, Trayce said he wanted to be the general manager/coach “like Jackie Moon.” Once his teammates got word of Trayce’s hesitation to add himself to his own team, there was some skepticism on whether or not he actually had game.

“He’s the brother of a splash bro,” a teammate laughed, referring to Klay. “He better freaking shoot.”

Some other players who got votes included Andre Jackson, Gavin Lux, Miguel Rojas, who claimed to be the best player on the team, and Austin Barnes. Clayton Kershaw said Barnes should be on the team because of his scrappy play style. “He wouldn’t let us lose,” Kershaw said.

Miguel Vargas was approached for his picks and immediately picked himself. When told to round out the rest of the starting five, he said, “I’m all we need. I’m like Kobe.”

Clayton Kershaw, Small Forward
Kershaw wasn’t getting many votes at first, but momentum picked up late and now he gets the honor of being this team’s small forward. Most players said Kershaw was a “sneaky” pick because of his underrated ability to shoot.

“I don’t think people know this,” Trayce said. “But he’s a really good shooter. I’ve seen it many times.”

Jason Heyward got a lot of votes at the position, but fell just short of passing Kershaw, who took him down by two selections. Jimmy Nelson, whose mother was a standout basketball player, got some votes but it wasn’t because of his genes. Instead, it was a characteristic that could make him tough to guard.

“He sweats a lot,” Ryan Pepiot said. “Nobody wants to touch that.”

Brusdar Graterol, Power Forward
This one was dependent on the style of play guys wanted to go with. Some players wanted to pick a tall player to get rebounds, others wanted someone who could shoot as a modern-day stretch power forward. In the end, Graterol edged out Dustin May for the power forward spot.

“He’s a superhero,” said Evan Phillips, referring to Graterol’s incredible athleticism.

Yency Almonte, who compared himself to LeBron James, didn’t get any traction from his teammates. Shelby Miller got two votes, but he downplayed his ability on the court. Freddie Freeman got one vote.

Noah Syndergaard, Center
Another position that came down to height. Syndergaard said he could rebound and hit the occasional corner shot, which seemed to convince enough of his teammates to give him the nod at center.

May came in second place again in this one despite Phillips wanting to see how the right-hander’s hair would look in a headband.

Thompson, looking for a small-ball lineup, gave Barnes a vote at center. Understanding that the pick comes with skepticism, Trayce followed it with a quick explanation. “He plays like Dennis Rodman and Ron Artest,” he explained. “He’s little, but he plays big.”

Phil Bickford, Professional Teammate
The easiest pick from just about every player on the Dodgers. Bickford was a no-brainer among his teammates, selected on all but two teams.

“You could be 0-for-10 from three,” Caleb Ferguson said. “And Phil will tell you you’re doing great.”

When told he was on the team, Bickford flashed that enthusiasm that his teammates alluded to. “Really?” he asked with a huge smile. Even after being told that he was only selected to sit on the bench, Bickford said: “That’s OK. At least I’m on the team.” Now we need to see Bickford coordinating an air guitar celebration on the bench.

How many games would this team win in the NCAA tournament?