Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.
The Western Conference is stacked. A reasonable argument can be made that 12 of the 15 teams in the conference can compete for a playoff spot. Perhaps six or more different teams have a realistic shot at securing the No. 1seed.
After five straight years of dominance, the Warriors now find themselves in the middle of a crowded pool of West contenders. So for the first time in a while, each regular-season game will be significant. It will be up to the Warriors to take advantage of the lesser teams on their schedule, especially from the Eastern Conference where the overall competition will not be as stiff.
That does not mean the entire Eastern Conference is a walk in the park, however, as some of the very best teams in the NBA reside in the East.
Let's take a look at when the Warriors are slated to face the East's best.
Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers
With Kawhi Leonard leaving the Toronto Raptors for Los Angeles, and Kyrie Irving leaving Boston for Brooklyn, the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers are the East's top remaining title contenders.
After blitzing the NBA with a highly efficient offense and a smothering defense last season, the Bucks return most of their core players, including the league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Meanwhile, the Sixers reloaded and now have potentially the best starting five in the NBA, with Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Al Horford, Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson.
The Warriors will face the Bucks and 76ers once at home and once on the road, but the Dubs will not see either of them until 39 games into the regular season when they face the Bucks on Jan. 8. Nine games later, the Warriors travel to Philadelphia on Jan. 28. Fortunately for the Warriors, they will have nearly half the regular season to find their groove and develop chemistry with a new roster before facing the East's best. More importantly, they do not play the Bucks or Sixers again until early March, which means that, barring any setbacks, Klay Thompson should have returned from his torn ACL and given the Dubs a much-needed scoring boost.
Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers
The loss of Irving might sting for the Celtics, but losing Horford to Philadelphia might ultimately impact Boston more. The Celtics added Kemba Walker and still return a solid core of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart, so there is good reason to believe they can jump back into the contender conversation.
The Warriors will play the Celtics at home just 13 games into the season after returning from a tough matchup on the road against the Lakers. Golden State heads to Boston on Jan. 30 after playing the Sixers in Philly among a very tough stretch of games that includes facing the Pacers at home.
Indiana surprised many with how well it played despite losing star Victor Oladipo to injury halfway through the season. It is not yet known when Oladipo will return, but the Pacers made some good offseason moves to make up for his absence, including signing young guard Malcolm Brogdon away from the Bucks.
After playing at Chase Center, the Warriors will not face the Pacers again until they travel to Indiana in mid-March, well into the timeline when Thompson should return.
On the cusp
Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors
The Nets made headlines this offseason by adding Irving and Kevin Durant, but with Durant most likely out for the season, the young team will have to make some big strides to compete with the top contenders in the East.
Brooklyn still will be dangerous, however, so fortunately for the Warriors they do not play the Nets until early February and then again in mid-March when Golden State should be improved and closer to full health.
As for the Raptors, despite losing Leonard, they still bring back a strong core of Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet. In an odd scheduling quirk, there is not an NBA Finals rematch until early March, which again should benefit the Warriors.