by Sam Riches / @sam_riches

Heading into the postseason, many around the League regarded the Dallas Mavericks as too soft and lacking the killer instinct to be considered serious contenders. As the face of the franchise, Dirk Nowitzki felt otherwise and after his play in the first two rounds of the Playoffs, many of his skeptics are being forced to reevaluate their position.

On the heels of sending the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers back to Hollywood after a surprising sweep, Pau Gasol said Dirk is playing the basketball of his career.

And now Dallas head coack, Rick Carlisle, is calling him one of the top ten players in League history.

From ESPN Dallas:

In my opinion, he’s a top 10 player in NBA history because of the uniqueness of his game and how he’s carried this franchise on his back for over a decade,’ Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle told “ESPN First Take” on Monday. ‘He’s just right. He’s leading the team. His shot-making is great. He’s passing the ball great. He’s one of the guys that’s directing traffic for us defensively.’

One could make a strong case that Nowitzki has been the NBA’s MVP of the first two rounds of the playoffs. The 7-footer has averaged 26.5 points and has consistently come through as a closer, putting up double figures in the fourth quarter of half the Mavs’ wins this postseason.

He also twice hit go-ahead shots in the final two minutes against the Los Angeles Lakers, whom the Mavericks swept out of the playoffs with a 122-86 victory in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals on Sunday.

‘When he’s on the floor, we feel like we can beat anybody,’ Carlisle said. ‘He’s that good.’

Nowitzki is one of four players in NBA history with career postseason averages of at least 25 points and 10 rebounds.”

With a NBA Championship trophy-sized hole still sitting in his awards closest, Nowitizki has one more step to take to cement his place among the greatest of all time.

As the Mavericks aim to get back to the Finals for the first time since their loss to the Miami Heat in 2006, Dirk now has a legitimate chance at redemption and the opportunity to hoist the first championship in franchise history.