http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/draf...chad&id=2079583

The most interesting draft rumor flying around this weekend had the Blazers and Celtics talking about a deal that would send Paul Pierce to Portland for the No. 3 pick in the draft and Nick Van Exel.

On Tuesday, Celtics director of basketball operations Danny Ainge shot that rumor down, telling Insider it was "ludicrous." Ainge said he had no intention of trading Pierce, especially for a draft pick.

Still, it's an interesting idea.

Van Exel has a team option on his contract this year. That means the Celtics could trade for his $12.7 million contract, and essentially waive him without owing him a penny. In other words, the Celtics would get the draft pick and cut their cap by more than $13 million (Pierce makes a little more than Van Exel).

It's obvious why the Blazers would do it. Adding an All-Star like Pierce at the two would be a major upgrade. If Portland could find a veteran point guard in free agency to back up Sebastian Telfair, it could be back in the playoff mix next year.

The Celtics also have motivation to do a deal like this. Pierce is unhappy. The Celtics don't sound like they're bringing back Antoine Walker and Gary Payton (both are free agents) next season, which is only going to make matters worse with Pierce.

By not re-signing Walker and Payton and by trading Pierce, the Celtics could accomplish a couple of things.

First, by making the move, Boston would be around $10 million under the cap going into the summer. That would allow Ainge to be aggressive on the free agent market. The Celtics would love to have a long, athletic shot blocker like Samuel Dalembert, Tyson Chandler or Stromile Swift. They would have enough cash to be a contender for one of these players by trading Pierce.

Second, the Celtics would be in a position to draft a potential superstar such as North Carolina swingman Marvin Williams or Wake Forest point guard Chris Paul. One of these two should be on the board at No. 3. They'd also retain their No. 18 pick in the draft.

While making these moves would likely mean the Celtics slip a little in the standings next year, Ainge would be putting together a pretty awesome long-term foundation for the Green. Both Paul and Williams have the potential to be superstars. Al Jefferson looks like he could be an All-Star someday. Delonte West and Tony Allen also appear to have bright NBA futures.

The downside of the deal is just as troubling. Ainge would be trading a proven star and scorer for potential and cap room. Given how lopsided the trades of Shaquille O'Neal, Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady have looked in hindsight, you can understand the hesitation.
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How about GP and NVE on the same team.............