Welcome to a new feature this season, the NBA A to Z Diaries, where we take you around the league for insight and analysis. Here, we take a look at who would be getting the most MVP votes after two days and 13 games are in the books.
Myles Turner for MVP?
It’s early here, which means we reserve the right to have a little fun with overreactions. But still, raise your hand if you had the Indiana Pacers’ Myles Turner on the MVP short list after one game. Oh, stop it. No one did.
The 20-year-old center turned in a 31-point, 16-rebound, four-block outing in an overtime win over Dallas that makes you wonder how dangerous these Pacers can become in the Cavs-and-everyone-else-Eastern Conference. Now it’s not as if this will suddenly become Turner’s new norm: the second coming of Shaq, he is not.
But with Jeff Teague now running point and Monta Ellis on the wings with the Pacers’ actual MVP candidate, Paul George, Turner (6-foot-11, 243 pounds, drafted 11th by the Pacers out of Texas two Junes ago) looks capable of being the kind of presence down low that new coach Nate McMillan needs to take them to the next level. That being said, let’s not get carried away with expectations here: Turner scored 30-plus points just once in his rookie season and averaged 13.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks as a rookie in games in which he played 30 or more minutes (16 in all).
Our USA TODAY Sports network colleague Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star weighed in on Turner.
You the real MVP…
No, Kevin Durant isn’t in the mix just yet after the Warriors flopped against the Spurs in their highly-anticipated debut. Even if he was the one who made the above saying famous while discussing his beloved mother during his 2014 MVP speech in Edmond, Okla. But man alive did all sorts of other stars start strong…
As I wrote last week in the three-part, early look at MVP, this race is going to be wide open. And, we're off: nine players scored 30-plus points in their season-openers, with the New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis topping the list (50 points to go with 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks in a loss to Denver; speaking of stars who need more help …).
Considering back-to-back MVP Stephen Curry of the Warriors was the only player to average 30-plus points last season (30.1), this was quite the outlier. And that was before four teams had even played a game yet (the Clippers, Bulls, Hawks and Wizards open on Thursday night).
The rest of the 30-plus list from there …
• Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan (40 points on 17 of 27 shooting in a win vs. Detroit; two shy of his career high).
• Portland’s Damian Lillard (39 points on 13 of 20 shooting overall, four of six from three-point range to go with nine rebounds and six assists in a win vs. Utah).
• San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, who was second in MVP voting behind Curry last season and has won the past two Defensive Player of the Year awards (35 points on 10 of 21 shooting, five rebounds, five steals, three assists in rout of Golden State).
• Houston’s James Harden, the Player’s Choice MVP two seasons ago who missed out on the All-NBA team in 2015-16 and is now running the point under new Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni (34 points, 17 assists, eight rebounds and seven turnovers in a loss to the Lakers).
• Oklahoma City’s Russell’s Westbrook, whose revenge tour in the post-Durant era started just like you would have thought (32 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists in a win over Philadelphia; not to mention this priceless reaction to an out-of-line Sixers fans.
• Toronto big man Jonas Valanciunas (32 points on 10 of 15 shooting, 11 rebounds in the win).
• Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is now the Bucks’ primary ballhandler under coach Jason Kidd and who signed a four-year, $100 million extension last month (31 points on 13 of 21 shooting, nine rebounds, and five assists in a loss to Charlotte).
• The aforementioned Turner.