"Hit 'em where they ain't."
Wee Willie Keeler -- all five-foot-four of him -- hit .341 over 19 years by living by his simple mantra. Even today, the quote retains blunt elegance and philosophical power.
Keeler anticipated the Moneyball approach to the game by about 100 years. Identify the holes in your competition's approach and exploit them.
Deprioritize what's being overvalued. Go after what being undervalued.
As we approach the endgame of the 2019-20 fantasy campaign... heed Wee Willie. Hit 'em where they ain't.
What can you exploit? The simple fact that endgame stage of the fantasy season mandates a different operational mindset.
Many managers don't recognize that fact. A plurality of managers believe that they can just stick to what's brought them success to date.
The truth: the final six weeks of the season is an altogether different ballgame.
The final six weeks of the NBA season presents constant shifts in valuation dynamics. Wild statistical mood swings fueled by a deepening, pronounced split in teamwide philosophies.
The fault line of said split: playoff teams vs. lottery teams.
It's an exercise in polarity. Playoff teams are getting ready for late April. Lottery teams are getting ready to count ping-pong balls.
Teams in contention consolidate rotations. Lottery teams open up their rotations. Load management kicks in at a higher degree. Stars are rested at random. Shutdowns increase. Buyouts increase. More D-League players are called up.
Result: endgame anarchy. But endgame anarchy produces fresh opportunity. New pools of fantasy value. Your job? Embrace the chaos. See what's being undervalued. Exploit it for your own gain.
I'm a big proponent of prioritizing efficiency over volume. Percentages over counting stats. Because average fantasy players don't care as much about efficiency. But over the final month of the fantasy season... I begin to employ a secondary approach.
One steal, one block, one 3-pointer.
Over a decade ago, I started pushing "1+1+1" players: players that average at least one steal, block and 3-pointer per game. (It's one of the few concepts I can honestly say I helped become part of the fantasy hoops lexicon.)
1+1+1 is special. A rarified combination of counting stats that few players can maintain.
The poster child for 1+1+1: Robert Covington. The most important 1+1+1 player of the past five seasons. He's important because of his lack of importance. Because average fantasy players constantly fail to recognize how valuable Covington is.
To the average NBA pedestrian, Covington's 2019-20 averages are decidedly average. 12.8 points. 6.0 rebounds. 43.3 FG%. But Covington secretly averages a gaudy 5.2 steals+blocks+3s per game. That's off-the-charts elite. Third in the NBA behind Harden and Anthony Davis. (Jonathan Issac would be up there too if it weren't for his knee injury.)
1+1+1 players are great to build around in October. But they're especially effective in the endgame. Why? We're grouping categorical scarcity in a period of relative anarchy. We're taking our three lowest-volume counting stats, and bundling them together. Result: a hidden class of fantasy superproducer.
The endgame means working the wire. Grabbing plug-and-play, one-category specialists. But specialists' values are diminished in that they're easy to identify. A 1+1+1 player may not produce eye-popping averages in any single area. Their diversified value is less obvious, which make 1+1+1's even more valuable.
1+1+1's provide balance. Stability in unstable areas. And in the endgame stage -- thanks to said instability -- new 1+1+1s start popping up all over the place.
Let's skip the obvious names. Here are 10 potential 1+1+1 breakout players to keep in mind for the endgame. All are available in at least 50 percent of all leagues. I'm listing them in order of lack of availability.
Dedmon's trade back to Atlanta could end up having some sneaky-good repercussions down the stretch. After flaming out in Sacramento, Dedmon is reunited with the team that first activated his 1+1+1 potential.
Dedmon is a rarity within the rarified confines of 1+1+1: a 1+1+1 center. He doesn't require a ton of minutes to produce roster-worthy numbers.
A lot of Dedmon's stretch value will be linked to Clint Capela. On paper, the more Capela plays, the more it will drive down Dedmon's 1+1+1 potential. But here's where endgame anarchy comes in: Capela is a looming shutdown situation. Plantar fasciitis is an express train to shutdown status. Capela was just declared out for another two weeks. Atlanta has no motivation to rush Capela back into action.
At the least, over the next two weeks, Dedmon should average 25.0 minutes per night. That will be enough time for him to flirt with a double-double and a 1+1+1.
Grant has been fantastic in Paul Millsap's absence. Grant over the past month: 14.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 1.4 blocks, 1.8 3s, off a 59.2 TS%. That's good for 21st overall on the Player Rater. It's criminal he's only rostered in a little more than a third of leagues.
Here's the rub: Millsap is back. If he were 2015 Paul Millsap, it would spell instant fantasy irrelevance for Grant. But Millsap is going to be load managed. This could be a timeshare down the stretch. Another factor against Grant: Michael Porter. Porter is due to return this week from an ankle sprain. The combined comebacks of Millsap and Porter could collude to kneecap Grant's 1+1+1 value.
Grant's value will ebb and flow down the stretch. With Denver getting healthy for the playoffs, Grant's playing time will fluctuate. Your job is to monitor Denver's frontcourt health and pinpoint when Grant is best positioned to do some 1+1+1 damage.
Much of Ross' production is linked to his streaky shooting. His TS% for 2019-20: a mediocre 52.1%. But if you're willing to ride out some terrifying shooting nights, Ross is a proven 1+1+1 player. Ross' minutes are in flux (monitor D.J. Augustin's health here), but Ross is well-positioned to close out the season with a diversified bang.
Here's one player I recommend as an immediate add in all leagues. Because the other Bridges is coming into his 1+1+1 own. He put up a consistently strong six games before All-Star Weekend. Doesn't score a ton of points...which is all the better for us. Because a la Covington, it means Bridges flies under the radar of fantasy dilettantes everywhere.
Bridges is building real statistical momentum. He has all the earmarks of an endgame breakout player. Go get this guy.
Charlotte will be increasingly incentivized to play Monk down the stretch. Reason: to see what they've got. Monk was a lottery pick, and it's time to fully assess his future value.
And here's a spot where being a sixth man is actually a plus. In leading Charlotte's second unit, Monk has a license to shoot. Monk's historical problem: he can't shoot. But it's time to see what Monk's got. And the more Monk plays, the more his shooting rounds into form.
Over the past month, Monk has shot 48.8 from the field, powering a 59.2 TS%. The confidence is growing. Increased confidence begets more playing time...which begets more 3s, steals and blocks.
Cam Reddish, SG/SF, Atlanta Hawks (9.4% rostered)
1+1+1 over last two weeks: 0.7 steals, 0.7 blocks, 1.3 3s
Reddish was building some momentum before losing four games to a concussion before the break. He's back, and ready for a classic lottery-team endgame burst. Reddish has been bouncing in and out of the starting lineup. As the season winds down, look for him to start with more frequency.
Like Monk, the more Reddish plays, the more his hideous shooting starts to iron out. He's posting a 46.7TS% for the season, but 56.6% over the past month.
Here's a fantasy truism: give Johnson 25 minutes, and he will giftwrap nothing but 1+1+1s. He's one of the most underrated and consistent 1+1+1 players of all time.
The issue (as always for Johnson) is role and minutes. Whenever he's pressed into 25-plus minutes, Johnson delivers. But he's an aging vet on a young team. It's easy to see how his role could be marginalized down the stretch. But if injuries strike? If KAT becomes a shutdown candidate? Johnson will be an under-the-radar fantasy weapon in deeper leagues.
Indiana is a lot like Denver in that they're getting healthy in time for the fantasy playoffs. Oladipo's return dings Holiday's value. But Indiana could employ some load management down the stretch, will would open up spot 1+1+1 opportunities for Holiday. Holiday's also capable of monster block lines from an atypical position (shooting guard).
Just make sure to monitor his shooting. Holiday is sort of a junior version of Ross.
Neale is just a name to file away. Injuries and pre-playoff load management could thrust O'Neale into a role of temporary endgame fantasy relevance. If he gets 25-plus minutes, the 1+1+1 is there.
Nicolo Melli, PF, New Orleans Hornets (1.5% rostered)
1+1+1 over last two weeks: 0.6 steals, 1.0 blocks, 2.0 3s
Of all of the very gettable players on the wire? Melli bears the closest watching. He's coming off the best stretch of his career. Melli's buried behind Zion, Ingram and Favors. But he could benefit from Zion and Ingram's injury issues. As New Orleans fades from the playoff picture, Melli could be in line for an increased role.