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The Specialists

Specialists: The Smart Play

by Ethan Norof
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics: Steals

I’ve read a lot of takes about how Jaylen Brown escaped his unbelievably frightening fall with “only a concussion,” and while I understand that the play could have resulted in additional injury, it feels as if those utilizing that phrase are (often unintentionally) perpetuating the idea that a brain injury—let’s call it what it really is— is insignificant in the context of the situation. If you are like me and were witness to Brown’s immediate reaction upon hitting the floor, there was nothing insignificant about the moment for anyone involved.

Because Brown is likely to miss at least the next week of action paired with the fact that Kyrie Irving (knee) is now expected to miss at least a handful of games, Smart stands to see his playing time rise. And although he’s a major drain in the field goal percentage category, the pesky pitbull of a point guard does enough on the defensive end to validate his presence on standard rosters. Smart figures to be a popular pickup following Sunday’s outburst in which he came through like the pizza delivery man with 20 points, seven boards, eight assists, four steals, and six triples on 6-of-13 shooting across 36 big minutes.

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Kyle Anderson, San Antonio Spurs: Steals

Anderson’s nickname might be Slo-Mo, but it’s been surprising to see the lack of speed at which some have been operating to grab the UCLA product off the waiver wire.

Over the course of the regular season to date, Anderson has more steals than noted names like Trevor Ariza, Kemba Walker, Draymond Green, and Kyle Lowry. And although Kawhi Leonard is now expected to return from his quad injury on Thursday vs. the Pelicans, San Antonio figures to be conservative with his playing time given the setback Leonard experienced earlier this season. With the Spurs fighting their way through a competitive a Western Conference playoff picture and Anderson an important piece on defense, those in head-to-head formats looking to swing a category should be willing to roll the dice. With an upcoming four-game week with games vs. Houston, Orlando, New Orleans, and Minnesota, Anderson makes for a solid if unspectacular pickup in deep 12-team leagues.

For what it’s worth, Anderson has averaged 2.6 steals per outing since the All-Star Break. Just sayin’.

J.J. Redick, Philadelphia 76ers: 3-pointers

Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid grab the attention, but Redick has been nothing short of sound since the calendar turned to March. Prior to Sunday’s blowout win vs. Brooklyn in which Redick laid a dud (12 points, one triple), the veteran shooting guard had averaged 17.8 points, 2.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 3.4 treys on a robust 57.1% from the field, including an insanely hot 60.4% from behind the 3-point line. That’s the kind of production that should be firmly in the spotlight, but Redick is just happy to do his part on a blossoming Sixers team.

“This is something that I’ll reiterate,” Redick recently said. “I love playing here. I love playing with these guys. I love playing for Brett [Brown]. This has been a fantastic experience.” Philadelphia has its eyes on a bigger prize this summer, but Redick has been a seamless fit in an offense that’s perfectly suited for him. It is going to be tough for Redick to hit the 200-triple mark for the fourth straight campaign, but Philadelphia is going to keep encouraging him to let it fly given their place in a crowded playoff race and their yearning desire to get in.

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Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Los Angeles Lakers: Steals, 3-pointers

Brandon Ingram’s (groin strain) absence has put immense pressure on the starting five with Josh Hart (hand) already out of the mix, and Caldwell-Pope has been forced to play major minutes with how thin the Lakers are on the wing. Including Sunday’s impressive win over the Lakers, KCP has played 36 minutes or more in six straight March contests with averages of 16.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 3.2 3-pointers on 34-of-66 (51.5%) shooting, including an incendiary 19-of-36 (52.8%) from distance.

It’s been quite the heater for KCP—a notoriously streaky player—and the good times might be sticking around with Ingram out for at least another couple of games and Hart 50-50 at best to return during the regular season. Caldwell-Pope’s commitment to defense should also continue to keep him on the floor regardless of Luke Walton’s lineup permutations, and KCP has plenty of incentive to perform down the stretch with free agency again staring him in the face. Although he’s been frustrating at times and there was a period where outright dropping him wouldn’t have been indefensible, Caldwell-Pope has been a top-75 play on the season in eight-cat leagues and inside the top-50 over the last week.

Ed Davis, Portland Trail Blazers: Rebounds, Field Goal Percentage

It doesn’t have to be sexy to work.

The Blazers are on a tear, and Davis has been a sizable part of it with averages of 7.4 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 1.0 block on 65.4% shooting. In addition to his solid averages, Davis has two double-double performances during that stretch and is averaging a season-high 23 minutes per game. It’s not like Portland has a ton of quality depth in its frontcourt, and although Davis has been pigeon-holed as a quality big off the bench, he’s actually seeing more playing time than starting center Jusuf Nurkic so far this month.

Davis is an alternate pickup for those who might have missed out on Montrezl Harrell—who was discussed in last week’s edition of this column—and that’s especially fitting given that Davis has always been viewed as a “backup plan” regardless of what team he’s played for throughout his career. At this point in the season, we should be looking for favorable matchups as well as “players of the moment,” and Davis offers both with four games t

Ethan Norof
Follow Ethan Norof on Twitter @Ethan_Norof for more fantasy basketball analysis, advice and all things Los Angeles Lakers.