New York Knicks: Ranking J.R. Smith's Top 10 Plays of the Season So Far

Ciaran Gowan@@CiaranGowanContributor IIIJanuary 19, 2013

New York Knicks: Ranking J.R. Smith's Top 10 Plays of the Season So Far

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    New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith is a human highlight-reel, and so far, in what has been the best year of his career, he's been making more of the big plays we've come to expect from him.

    From buzzer-beaters to huge dunks, and even some unselfish teamwork, Smith has been helping his team out and looking good in the process.

    Though we've yet to reach the All-Star break, Smith has already built himself an extensive portfolio of jaw-dropping plays, so let's take a look at the top 10 so far.

10. Steal and Assist for Chandler vs. Detroit

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    Since joining the Knicks in February last year, J.R. Smith has really improved his defense. Thanks to the tough love of Mike Woodson, he has become a difference-maker out on the perimeter, which has made him a much more effective player overall.

    Smith should now be considered a truly two-way player, and his average of 1.3 steals on the season (an improvement of his career average of 1.0) tells you all you need to know about his penchant for causing turnovers.

    Here, against the Detroit Pistons, he strips Rodney Stuckey at the basket and brings the ball all the way down to the other end of the floor before dishing for a Tyson Chandler dunk.

9. Game-Tying Shot vs. Phoenix

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    J.R. Smith's clutch game-winner in Phoenix will live long in the memory, but it also made us forget about what was an equally big shot in the possession beforehand.

    Catching the ball near the halfway line with only five seconds left on the shot clock, Smith forced his way to the free throw line despite great defense from P.J. Tucker. He then nailed a tough two-pointer with a hand in his face to set up the big shot on the next play.

    With Carmelo Anthony missing a few games this season, Smith has shown he can be just as cold-blooded when it comes to crunch time in the fourth quarter.

8. Facial Dunk on Greg Stiemsma vs. Minnesota

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    Over the course of his eight-year career, J.R. Smith has posterized more than his fair share of NBA big men, and he added sophomore Greg Stiemsma to the list in this game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    Smith put up 19 points on the night, but this was undoubtedly the best field goal he recorded. After blowing by Luke Ridnour on the outside, Smith's momentum was too much for Stiemsma, who probably would have been better off getting out of the way and avoiding the embarrassment of getting dunked on.

7. Steal and Assist for Stoudemire vs. Portland

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    Amar'e Stoudemire looked a little bit shaky in his season debut against the Portland Trail Blazers, but J.R. Smith did his part in trying to make him comfortable in the Knicks' offense.

    Some great hustle on defense set up a great offensive opportunity, and STAT was the beneficiary of Smith's unselfishness with his first dunk of the season.

    If Stoudemire stays on the bench for the remainder of the season we should expect to see a lot more of this, as the pair have a chance to be the most dynamic bench pairing in the entire NBA.

6. Big Dunk Courtesy of Prigioni vs. Philly

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    J.R. Smith's play in the first few weeks of the season really set the tone for what we have seen so far, and this dunk in game three against the 76ers was his first real highlight of the campaign.

    Pablo Prigioni confused everyone when he decided to pass from such a great position, but when Smith suddenly came into sight it all started to make sense.

    With a full head of steam, Smith punished the defense, and even the Philadelphia crowd was audibly and visibly shocked at what they had just seen.

    The best part of it was the way Smith mocked the crowd afterwards, as 76ers head coach Doug Collins looked on in despair with his team now down by 21.

5. Reverse Alley-Oop vs. Washington

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    Alley-oops tend to be some of the more exciting plays around the NBA, but J.R. Smith makes them even better.

    Due to his unrivaled athleticism, Smith is capable of finishing in style, and along with Tyson Chandler, has helped make New York the Lob City of the Eastern Conference.

    Here against the hapless Wizards he puts away Pablo Prigioni's pass with a reverse alley-oop, a play we've seen from Smith plenty of times in his first 70 or so games with the Knicks.

4. Game-Winner vs. Charlotte

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    His celebratory salsa dance may not have been up to scratch, but J.R. Smith's game-winner against the Charlotte Bobcats was still fantastic to watch.

    Carmelo Anthony had left the game with injury at this point, and with 3.4 seconds to go, it was up to Smith to get the job done.

    Smith was up to the challenge, and finished with a step-back J on the wing to beat the buzzer and give New York its 13th victory of the season.

3. Huge Dunk on Mahinmi vs. Indiana

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    After embarrassing Greg Stiemsma against Minnesota, J.R. Smith made sure he wasn't alone by adding Ian Mahinmi to his poster list in a loss to the Pacers.

    With as much space as he was given, it wasn't a surprise that Smith was able to finish with the dunk, but it was amazing that he managed to switch hands mid-air and throw it down with his right hand.

    The reaction of Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller really says it all.

2. Insane Reverse Alley-Oop from Prigioni vs. San Antonio

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    To throw down an alley-oop, a player typically needs a good high pass, but that doesn't seem to apply to J.R. Smith.

    In this blowout victory against the Spurs, Pablo Prigioni gave him a relatively low pass as he cut to the basket, and somehow Smith managed to convert it into a ridiculous reverse alley-oop.

    Mike Breen called it "the shortest alley-oop pass you are ever going to see," and he may just be right.

1. Game-Winner vs. Phoenix

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    J.R. Smith's buzzer-beating game-winner in Phoenix was in a nearly identical position to the one he sank in Charlotte, but the increased level of difficulty gives it the No. 1 spot.

    Smith had exactly one second to catch the ball, turn around and shoot, but he managed to hit the fadeaway, and with a hand in his face nonetheless. 

    It came during a tough stretch of games for the Knicks in which they missed Carmelo Anthony, but Smith made sure it wouldn't get them down in this game totaling 27 points, six rebounds, five assists and five steals.