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The season of depletion: what teams will thrive?

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This season has been riddled with suspensions, players sitting out, injuries and so forth, which in turn, are affecting many teams. With so much depletion, it bodes the question: which teams will thrive?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Though the 2014 WNBA Finals ended in a sweep, the series didn't lack at all for excitement. The star-studded championship matchup between the Phoenix Mercury and Chicago Sky was the most watched WNBA Finals since at least 2006, since average viewership numbers have been recorded.

The series averaged 659,000 viewers game, eclipsing the record set by Phoenix's last title run in 2009 against the Fever. The decisive game 3 reeled in 828,000 viewers alone.

The increase viewership was no doubt influenced by the presence of three of the league's biggest stars in Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, and Elena Delle Donne, and the 2015 season looked to be an opportunity to build off of the renewed league-wide interest.

But unfortunately, that momentum has been slowed. Diana Taurasi, last year's Finals MVP, chose not to return to Phoenix for the 2015 season, opting instead to rest at the behest of her Russian Premier League team, UMMC Ekaterinburg.

Brittney Griner, defensive anchor for that championship Mercury team, won't suit up for a game until Thursday's matchup with the San Antonio Stars, having been suspended for a domestic violence incident. Her then-wife, Glory Johnson of the Tulsa Shock, received the same suspension for her involvement in the same incident.

And the Mercury aren't the only ones losing out on talent. Last year's runner-up Chicago Sky are playing without WNBA superstar Sylvia Fowles, who hasn't played for the team since requesting a trade in the offseason.

They are also playing without their former starting forward Tamera Young, who recently underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in her thumb.

If you look down the league's injury and suspension report, it becomes evident that the league is nowhere close to full strength right now. The Dream will play without Tiffany Hayes and Aneika Henry until early July as they compete in the 2015 European Games in Azerbaijan.

The top two teams in the Eastern Conference are battling through their own injuries. Microfracture surgery has claimed the Sun's 2014's Rookie of the Year Chiney Ogwumike for the rest of the season, and Connecticut has already lost former all-star Katie Douglas to retirement. The Mystics are without center Kia Vaughn due to a concussion, and Bria Hartley's sophomore campaign has been stunted because of a stress fracture.

From the Sparks' Candace Parker to the Liberty's Epiphany Prince, the list of empty entries in the box scores go on and on. Whether from injury, rest, suspension, or other personal reasons, there's no getting around the fact that some of the league's most important players are on the sidelines instead of on the court.

But the quality of the product hasn't waned much. Not only do the injury-ravaged rosters of the Mystics and Sun sit atop the Eastern Conference, but the Shock and the Lynx have an early hold on the West while dealing with their own personnel issues.

For other teams like the Mercury, it's a chance to assess the roster and see what players step up to the plate. In the nature of the business, injuries and suspensions give rise to opportunities for players a little lower on the depth chart.

For another perspective, a different type of opportunity presents itself for some teams. The Sparks have yet to win a game this season and, if the trend holds up, could be positioned for a top pick in next year's draft. A dynamic rookie, in addition to a returning Candace Parker and Kristi Toliver, could drastically change the landscape for LA in 2016.

More than anything, the missing players have added an element of unpredictability to the season. It will be interesting over the course of the summer to see which teams can overcome that uncertainty, and which teams will falter because of it.

Nevertheless, even the teams who carve an identity out of the confusion shouldn't get too comfortable; the 2016 Summer Olympics will inevitably affect WNBA rosters again next season, and basketball fans might be in for a ride just as wild next year.