BROOKLYN -- Myles Turner started the season looking like a star. In the Indiana Pacers' opener Wednesday, the second-year center dominated the Dallas Mavericks with 30 points on 13-for-19 shooting along with 16 rebounds, four blocks and two steals. In overtime, the 7-footer hit a crucial 3-pointer and put an exclamation point on the 130-121 victory with a tomahawk dunk on a fast break. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle told reporters that Turner "did a little bit of everything to hurt us." Two days later, Turner told CBS Sports it was a statement game.

As a rookie, Turner scored 31 points against the Golden State Warriors and played major minutes in their seven-game series against the Toronto Raptors, swatting away shots and the idea that he was a long-term project. If the Mavericks game was Turner declaring he can be special, it wasn't news to the Pacers.

"That's stuff we've seen him do," Pacers swingman C.J. Miles said. "We know his talent level. He's still got a ways to go, which is even scarier. You see a little bit of LaMarcus [Aldridge] in there. I don't know who to compare him to on the defensive end yet, but I mean he moves really well, he runs really well, he's rebounding better, you see him going after 'em on the offensive glass, too. And just understanding what he can do to affect the game in every way."

Had Turner entered the league seven years ago, he would have been seen as an alien. Serge Ibaka has since shown the value in being able to both protect the paint and stretch the floor, and Turner's emergence coincides with the rise of Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis and Joel Embiid -- 23-and-under 7-footers who handle the ball and shoot like guards.

In his one up-and-down season at Texas, Turner received criticism for spending too much time on the perimeter. Now he sees the league shifting. While he wants to improve as a post player to take advantage of switches, he said big men now have to be multi-dimensional.

"Everybody can do everything," Turner said. "That's always been, I guess, my kind of game. It's kind of cool to come into the league at a time where the game is changing."

The former Longhorn still has a pair of Starbury Ones signed by Kevin Durant in his childhood bedroom, the Indianapolis Star reported last season. It's no wonder, then, that his jumper is so smooth. When Miles sees these new-school centers, he thinks of them watching the tall and talented Durant and LeBron James as kids.

"All you do is marry your favorite players," Miles said. "Growing up, you see those type of players, that's what you end up doing. That's the way I see it. Everything just redefines itself. And it's on accident. It's the circle of life. It's evolution."

Myles Turner dunking in the Pacers' opener
Myles Turner needs to fly high for the Pacers. USATSI

While many consider Mike D'Antoni the godfather of smallball, it's worth noting that the Houston Rockets coach routinely dismisses the term. He prefers "skilled ball." Today's NBA is about versatility, and there's perhaps no better weapon than an athletic big who can defend smaller players, block shots, make plays and spot up. Coaches are encouraging traditional centers like Marc Gasol and Brook Lopez to shoot 3s, and plodding bigs who can't protect the rim are increasingly being sent to the bench. Al Jefferson, whose bag of tricks on the block took him to the All-NBA third team in 2014, is now Turner's backup.

As Indiana tries to redefine itself under new coach Nate McMillan, Turner is its most important piece next to Paul George. The Pacers reached the Eastern Conference finals in 2013 and 2014 in spite of their poor offense, thanks to a dominant defense anchored by Roy Hibbert. They want to return there as a faster, more exciting team, without sacrificing their defense or toughness. Turner, in theory, allows them to have it all.

The tricky part is the timeline. Most young players take years to grasp the nuances of team defense, but George told The Vertical that he wants to challenge LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers this season. After Indiana lost Game 7 in Toronto and fired coach Frank Vogel, the Pacers front office decided to retool rather than rebuild, acquiring veterans Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young. They also let center Ian Mahinmi go in free agency, betting big on Turner's development.

"Defending the basket, rebounding the ball, he's got to be kind of that safety, that last line of defense for us," McMillan said. "Communicating off the ball is very important. And those are areas where we expect that he'll grow and we need for him to."

If Turner's first game of the season was a showcase for his potential, his second was a reminder that he hasn't realized it yet. On Friday, the Brooklyn Nets repeatedly targeted him in pick-and-roll situations down the stretch. He committed a costly foul against Justin Hamilton in crunch time and was rejected by Hamilton at the rim. Even though Turner had 13 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks, it wasn't a particularly impressive performance -- he was part of Indiana's defense falling apart in the fourth quarter, leading to a 103-94 loss. The next night, the Pacers lost 118-101 in Chicago after another collective defensive failure.

Miles said there will be nights where Turner struggles, and the 20-year-old will learn from them. He added that everyone in the locker room understands that he's the future of the franchise. Young, who has only played three regular-season games with Turner, said he can already see he has the makings of an elite player.

The praise -- for his tools, his work ethic and his attitude -- is universal, but it comes with pressure. Could this be too much, too soon?

"Not when you want it," Miles said. "Not when that's what you expect of yourself. Everything he's doing, if you talk to him, that's what he expects to be. That's what he wants to be. It's not like you take a monkey and throw him in a lion's den and say, 'You're a lion now.' Like, he wanted to be a lion from the get-go. So now he sees other lions, he's like, 'I recognize that, I want to be that. That's what I am.'"

Turner said, unlike last year, he's not wide-eyed and unsure of what's in front of him. He feels "a lot more seasoned," and insisted he's not worried about the increased expectations.

"I can't doubt myself now," Turner said. "I have to come in here every night. My team's depending on me."