There has been a distinct lack of credit given to the Phoenix Suns throughout the 2011-12 NBA season, which is to be expected. At the start of this 66-game season, when the internet collectively combined to make their knowledgeable predictions of the upcoming season, there weren't many established names in the media who thought the Suns would make the impact they have so far. Veteran NBA writer Sam Smith predicted us to finish 14th, ahead of only the Rockets. These two teams currently stand at 8th and 9th in the conference respectively. ESPN expert (lol) John Hollinger also predicted that we would finish at 14th, ahead of the Hornets (at least he got that right).
Coming into the season, national interest in the Suns was zilch. There were other, more important storylines. Would the Heat finally win the promised championship? Did the Mavericks have enough to retain their title? Is Kobe too old? How would the Knicks fare with a full off-season under their belt? The only mention the Suns ever got on the front pages of anywhere were "rumors from sources close to the Phoenix front office" that they were going to trade to a contender.
So needless to say everyone, including most of us, is shocked that the Suns are performing so well. Whether they make the playoffs or not, they have still exceeded everybody's expectations. So in what form, should there be any, will the recognition for this season take?
Possible candidates for end-of-season awards are few and far between in this team. There is no realistic MVP candidate, although there is literally no more valuable player to his team than Steve Nash is to the Suns. Grant Hill will likely garner a few votes for Defensive Player of the Year, but the Suns have not been on national TV enough for the voters to realise just how elite of a defender he really is. Gentry has been mentioned by a number of outlets (including NBA.com) as someone who could possibly gather a vote or two for Coach of the Year, although that award is really a two man race between Gregg Popovich and Tom Thibodeau.
Perhaps the only two Suns players who could realistically come away with an award by the end of the season (which for us is hopefully May) are Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris. Gortat should be a frontrunner for the Most Improved Award, as he's gone from a bench player to a legitimate Top 10 center in the league. He averages 15.8PPG and 9.8RPG a game, along with 1.5BPG with only 2.2FPG.
Morris has been a great pick for the Suns, an organisation notorious for stuffing up picks, or trading away the ones that turn out decent. While his stats aren't flashy (7.6PPG, 4.4RPG, 0.7BPG, 0.7SPG), he's been terrific considering he hasn't had a proper training camp with the team. Expect him to be named in a rookie team.
While awards aren't everything at the end of the day, it would be nice for the Suns to get some recognition from those who doubted them at the start of the season. Playoffs > awards for sure. But still.