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Mavericks vs Hawks: Q&A with Tim Cato of Mavs Moneyball

Tim Cato of SB Nation's Mavs Moneyball fields a few questions in advance of tonight's matchup between the Atlanta Hawks and the Dallas Mavericks.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks have gotten off to a good start in the powerful Western Conference this season. Monta Ellis has fit in nicely alongside Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks are once again looking like a very good squad. Tim Cato of Mavs Moneyball was good enough to exchange questions with Peachtree Hoops and here is what he had to say about Ellis, Dirk, rebuilding and tonight's matchup:

(Kris Willis) Monta Ellis was a player that we thought might end up in a Hawks uniform this summer. He has a reputation as being an inefficient player but his numbers look more positive this season. What are your thoughts on Ellis and why has he fit so well with the Mavericks?

(Tim Cato) I've seen people call him a "different" Monta, but I think it's just the setting around him. He's been the number one option for the Mavericks, which makes Dirk Nowitzki the best number two in the league. The threat of a Dirk 20-footer has given Monta so much more space to operate with on the pick and roll, and allowed his underrated playmaking to shine. The mid-range jumpers are still there, but they're in rhythm and smarter than the ones he took in Milwaukee, and as a result, it's paying off.

(KW) I see some similarities between the Mavericks and the Hawks' approach to trying to build a contender while remaining competitive. The Hawks don't have an owner with deep pockets like Mark Cuban but have built a team that figures to be in the playoffs when other Eastern Conference teams are tanking. What are your thoughts on rebuilding while remaining competitive? Is tanking necessary to building a championship caliber club?

(TC) It's tricky and a lot of it depends on how well you can use the draft. People say you have to tank to become great, but even top five draft picks aren't guaranteed. That's why Cleveland hasn't turned into Oklahoma City. The Mavericks were always just "one player away" for years, and it turned out Tyson Chandler was enough for the Mavericks in 2011. But in the following years, Dirk was too old to try to tear it apart and build it back up around him, and the decision was made to simply maximize the years he has left. I don't want to speak too much into Atlanta's situation, but successfully drafting Jeff Teague with a mid-first round draft is huge, and I'm a big Dennis Schroeder fan, too.

I could easily write another 500 words on this, but in the end, the two most important things is drafting well and getting lucky. I think the Hawks are halfway there.

(KW) The Atlanta Hawks haven't had a true franchise player like Dirk Nowitzki since the days of Dominique Wilkins. Where do you think Dirk ranks amongst the all-time greats? Does he get the credit he deserves?

(TC) I'm just so incredibly happy he got that elusive championship a few years ago after getting so, so close in 2006. I don't think most people realize that he has an outside shot of cracking the top ten in all-time scoring this season, and if he plays another two or three years (and by all indications, he is going to), will probably pass Shaq to become the sixth leading scorer of all time. He's one of the top three or four players of his generation, without a doubt, and I think more people will realize that as time progresses.

(KW) These two teams met on opening night with Dallas coming out on top. What do you think the Mavericks need to do to come away with another win on Friday?

Teams that Dallas struggles against have high-powered offenses and a handful of athletic big men to crash the offensive glass. Fortunately, neither of those really describes Atlanta. For the Hawks to have success against the Mavericks, they need to figure out a way to disrupt Dallas on offense (ranked 5th in the league with 106.8 points per 100 possessions). If they get into an offensive shootout, they're playing right into the Mavs gameplan.

We'd like to thank Tim for taking the time to talk with us about tonight's game and be sure to give him a follow on Twitter. If you have any questions for Tim you can leave them in the comments section as he is planning on stopping by sometime before tipoff. You also need to head over to Mavs Moneyball to read my exchange with him about tonight's game.