Celtics

Celtics first-round options in the NBA Draft: USC guard Kevin Porter Jr.

Celtics first-round options in the NBA Draft: USC guard Kevin Porter Jr.

BOSTON -- The hype train was in overdrive well before Kevin Porter Jr. set foot on the USC campus last fall.

That’s how it is when you’re one of the most coveted players in the nation, a shoo-in to be part of the one-and-done fraternity of college-to-pro ballers.

But the production never quite meshed with the promise of greatness that so many saw in Porter Jr., which is why he is considered a player with top-10 talent who at best will be among those chosen near the end of the lottery (top-14) or further down the first round draft board.

But the Celtics are never one adverse to taking a chance, particularly when it comes to drafting a player with significant upside in a draft where there’s very few can’t-miss prospects.

That’s why the idea of adding a player with top-10 talent is intriguing to a Celtics team with a trio of first-round picks (No. 14, No. 20 and No. 22) that all fall outside of the top 10.

But if it were just a disappointing season that raised concerns about Porter Jr. at the next level, that could easily be put aside by most teams.

Indeed, the red flags - that’s plural not singular - outside of his first-year production are what more than anything else, make him one of the more polarizing prospects in this year’s draft class.

That’s why he has been projected to go anywhere from the top 10, to the 20s in the first round.

During his freshman season at USC, he said his play was impacted by quad injury that eventually sidelined him for a significant chunk of the season.

He would later say that he came back to playing too soon, and that he needed to trust his body more so that he makes better decisions as far as what to do and what not to do when it comes to returning from an injury.

Shortly after his return, he was also suspended indefinitely for a “personal conduct issue.”

"It’s very disappointing. We need all our players to be healthy and be available. We have a short roster as it is," USC coach Andy Enfield told reporters at the time. "The last thing you want to do as a head coach is suspend any of your players, but when there's conduct issues, we have no choice."

And that incident, one in which Porter Jr. has been asked about by every team in some form or another, only adds to the mystery and uncertainty surrounding one of the more talented players in the draft whose draft night drop may be to the benefit of the Boston Celtics.

Click here for A. Sherrod Blakely's NBA Mock Draft 5.0>>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Kawhi Leonard injury: Clippers star reportedly expected to play vs. Celtics

Kawhi Leonard injury: Clippers star reportedly expected to play vs. Celtics

All signs are pointing toward one of the NBA's top-five players playing in Wednesday night's showdown between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center.

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard has missed the last three games with a left knee injury, but ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk and Adrian Wojnarowski have reported the two-time NBA Finals MVP is expected to play versus the C's.

Leonard has played in nine of the Clippers' 14 games this season. Whether he's actually injured or just using load management to keep himself fresh for the playoffs, it's exciting that he's likely to play against a Celtics team with championship aspirations after a strong start to the campaign.

Boston leads the Eastern Conference standings with an 11-2 record and owns the sixth-best defensive rating in the league. Celtics guard Marcus Smart was named to the NBA's All-Defense first team last season, and he's making a compelling case in 2019-20 to be the Defensive Player of the Year award winner. Smart likely will be tasked with guarding Leonard, and that matchup will be awesome to watch. 

Leonard is averaging 26.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and six assists per game this season, and the Clippers are 7-2 with him in the lineup. He's not the only superstar forward the C's must stop, though. Paul George is back after missing the first few weeks of the season. He's averaging 29.3 points in 24.3 minutes over three games.

Marcus Smart reveals his pick for NBA's most unstoppable player>>>

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Clippers, which tips off Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

NBA Rumors: These Celtics players are off-limits in trade deadline talks

NBA Rumors: These Celtics players are off-limits in trade deadline talks

The Boston Celtics may need to upgrade their frontcourt if they want to compete with the beasts of the NBA's Eastern Conference.

But to get something good, you need to give something good in return ... and the Celtics don't seem willing to do that at the moment.

Here's what ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported in his column Wednesday about the prospects of Boston trading for a big man before the Feb. 7 NBA trade deadline:

While one could have some fun with the Trade Machine, Boston has made it clear to anyone who has asked that their core players are absolutely not available. That includes, sources said, both (Gordon) Hayward and (Marcus) Smart, players who have been floated as possible trade chips in the past.

Windhorst didn't confirm who Boston's other "core players" are, but we can fill in the gaps: If Hayward and Smart are off the table, Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown aren't going anywhere, either.

Can the Celtics really make an upgrade in the frontcourt without moving one of their five best players?

If they do, a trade almost certainly would need to include the Memphis Grizzlies' first-round pick, which is top-six protected for 2020 and is Danny Ainge's best trade chip. The C's also should get the Milwaukee Bucks' first-rounder in addition to their own.

But even if draft picks can lure a big man like Clint Capela, Kevin Love or LaMarcus Aldridge, the Celtics still would have a hard time matching salaries: Outside the five "core players," only Enes Kanter and Daniel Theis (both big men) are making more than $4 million on Boston's roster.

Seven-footers like Joel Embiid and Brook Lopez could pose a problem for the Celtics in the playoffs, so expect Ainge to do his big man due diligence, even as the C's enter Wednesday as the East's No. 1 seed at 11-2. A major trade at the deadline may be easier said than done, though.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Clippers, which tips off Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.