The Toronto Raptors will march into the 2019-20 NBA season as one of the elites in the Eastern Conference. But with Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard playing for another team next season, questions surrounding the makeup of this superstar-less Raptors are starting to surface just days before training camp officially begins.

Michael Pina of SB Nation provided a preview of Toronto’s offense with Pascal Siakam as the go-to-scorer, and also explained why trading budding star might be the best move for team president Masai Ujiri to kick-start his rebuild.

Siakam, who won the Most Improved Player of the Year on a team stacked with stars last season, will now be thrust into the spotlight to fill that gaping hole left by Leonard, the team’s leading scorer and main defensive anchor.

Pina believes, while Siakam can still grow into a reliable No.1 option or even an All-NBA type of a player, the Raptors front office shouldn’t shut down the possibility of leveraging the forward’s enormous market value for potentially a record-setting haul of trade assets.

The SB Nation scribe has no doubts Siakam would command a massive trade package from contenders or teams that are eager to fast-track their rebuild.

He pointed out the New Orleans Pelicans, OKC Thunder, and Atlanta Hawks as potential suitors because these teams can offer a package of high draft picks and enticing young prospects any rebuilding team would desire to have.

“Siakam makes sense everywhere, and even on a max contract he’s young enough not to push any timelines ahead of schedule,” Pina writes.

The Parallels of 2011 Mavericks Championship Team

Another noteworthy thing Pina mentioned in his SB Nation piece was the striking similarity between the 2019 Raptors championship team and the 2011 Mavericks title squad.

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While the Mavs didn’t lose Dirk Nowitzki to free agency the summer after winning their first title, the 2011-12 season saw a steep decline from Nowitzki’s game, not to mention they sorely missed the service of defensive stalwarts Tyson Chandler.

Despite having a roster filled with veterans, the Mavericks adamantly waved off a necessary injection of youth into their program, hoping the same group of aging stars would come up with another remarkable championship run.

The Mavs had never sniffed a conference finals stint ever again.

They settled for mediocrity over the last eight years, and it took a couple of big gamble trades (an NBA Draft trade for Luka Doncic and mid-season swing for Kristaps Porzingis) for Dallas to return to Western Conference relevancy.

Youth Movement

The Raptors front-office must avoid repeating the same mistakes the Mavericks did by retaining their aging players. Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Marc Gasol are all playing on the final year of their contracts. This trio is still capable of playing at a high-level, yet none of them at this juncture of their career can push the Raptors back into the title picture.

Ujiri is making sure everyone who worked hard to bring the Larry O’Brien title to Toronto is getting treated with the utmost respect. However, he also understands that going full-blown youth movement is the right thing to do. Siakam, O.G Anunoby and hopefully, Stanley Johnson are going to be the pillars of the Raptors future. Toronto is projected to have at least two max salary level slots in 2021, the year when Leonard, Paul George, and Giannis Antetokounmpo would hit the free-agency market.

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