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Raptors have no need to begin rebuilding

With Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby under contract, the Raptors have no reason to begin a rebuild
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Over the past few weeks Sports Illustrated's national team has been asking one big question of every NBA team. Today they tackled the Toronto Raptors and asked should the Raptors begin a rebuild?

"Does it make sense to bring back guys like (Marc) Gasol and (Serge) Ibaka moving forward? (Kyle) Lowry is a franchise icon, but he’ll also be a valuable guy on the trade market for other contenders by the time next season rolls around," Rohan Nadkarni writes.

A year ago, this was a question Raptors fans contemplated. Should Toronto sell Lowry, Gasol, Ibaka to kickstart a rebuild with around Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby or try to contend in 2019-20? This season gave the Raptors the answer.

No, the Raptors should not begin a rebuild.

Without Kawhi Leonard and despite 219 games lost to injury — the fifth highest in the NBA — the Raptors proved this season that they can still contend among the Eastern Conference's very best. When the season was stopped on March 11, Toronto was 46-18, good for the third-best record in the NBA. We're talking about blowing up the third-best team in the NBA?

In truth, Toronto has already begun a retooling. The extension of Siakam in October ushered in a new era of Raptors basketball, beginning the transition out of the Lowry era and into a new period.

The question the Raptors have to answer this summer is what to do with their three key free agents. Fred VanVleet, Ibaka, and Gasol are all on expiring deals and the departure of one or two of them could alter the look of the 2020-21 Raptors, though not enough to push Toronto out of the playoffs. Right now, Toronto needs to be — and has reportedly been — focused on balancing the long term and the present. The possibility of Giannis Antetokounmpo coming to Toronto in 2021 means the Raptors need to keep cap room open for next summer.

It's easy, as Nadkarni writes, to become overly focused on the long term and talk about a total rebuild, but if the 2020 season starts up again the Raptors have a chance to do something special.

Today, Siakam is 26 years old and a bonafide NBA star. As long as that remains the case the Raptors should continue trying to contend. It wasn't too long ago that Toronto was a top-tier playoff team unable to get over the hump when a disgruntled superstar hit the open market.

Aaron Rose covers the Toronto Raptors for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter @aaronbenrose or on Facebook @AllRaptors.