Spring training is in full swing much to the delight of baseball fans across the country. However, March's premier sporting event is nipping at its heels. From next week up until the start of the real baseball season, college basketball will dominate the headlines. So why not get the best of both worlds and imagine what it would look like if the current Yankees squad lined up as a basketball team?
The two largest men on the Yankees, CC Sabathia and Dellin Betances, are physically reminiscent of a pair of Hall of Fame big men that dominated the NBA in the 1970s. Much like Sabathia, Bullets center Wes Unseld was 6' 7" and about as wide as he was tall. Unseld's teammate, power forward Elvin Hayes, was to him what Betances is to Sabathia, a slightly taller and less wide version of himself. Together Unseld and Hayes racked up rebounds at record rates while consistently being two of the best defensive big men in the league. Sabathia and Betances wouldn't be nearly as nimble on the court as those two but they could certainly grab their fair share of boards and serve as the anchor of a quality defense by taking up a whole lot of space in the paint. To round out the frontcourt the Yankees would need an athletic player with decent size and the ability to score from anywhere on the floor. The only player that even remotely fits that description is Alex Rodriguez. It's pretty sad that a 39-year old with bad hips would be the most athletic forward on this team.
When the Yankees signed center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury last year, he brought with him a skillset similar to the Yankees incumbent center fielder Brett Gardner. They proved that having two strong outfielders with speed at the top of the order is a good problem to have as they were the two most productive Yankees last year. It didn't matter that they had overlapping attributes and were hated rivals before they were teammates. What does this have to do with basketball? Well over 40 years ago the Knicks made a similar move when they acquired All-Star guard Earl "The Pearl" Monroe to play alongside his former nemesis, New York's own All-Star guard Walt "Clyde" Frazier. As two guys who needed the ball in their hands to be effective, most fans didn't think they would work out as teammates. Just a year later they figured out how to make their styles blend and were dubbed the Rolls Royce Backcourt on their way to winning the NBA Title in 1973. The thought here is that Gardner and Ellsbury could probably make it work like this on the basketball court as well. Ok, so maybe they would be more like the Dodge Dart Backcourt, but Gardner could be the patient facilitator on offense while Ellsbury could be more aggressive and attack the rim.
They'll need a big man to backup Sabathia and Betances and at 6' 7" and 260 pounds Michael Pineda is just the man to do it. Something tells me foul trouble is in his future though. With a tall, wiry frame Andrew Miller could be instant offense as a jump-shooting forward. Combo guards are a staple on any good basketball team these days and Didi Gregorius could probably fill that role to backup Gardner or Ellsbury. Chase Headley could play the wing and be the "glue guy" that college basketball analysts love to talk about. The type of player that does all the little things that can make the difference between winning and losing.
How do you see the current Yankees filling out a basketball roster? Let us know in the comments below.