Knicks agree to deal with Nerlens Noel, yet another ex-Kentucky Wildcat

Stefan Bondy, New York Daily News

NEW YORK — The Knicks keep filling up the roster with Kentucky players.

Nerlens Noel became the latest product of John Calipari’s program to join New York, agreeing Saturday night to a one-year, $5 million deal.

Noel, a 26-year-old center, hasn’t lived up to his hype as a sixth overall pick in 2013, but recently settled into a role as an efficient finisher around the rim and a solid defensive backup center. He averaged 7.4 points and 1.5 blocks in 18.5 minutes last season with the Thunder.

With the Knicks, Noel will likely serve as a backup to center Mitchell Robinson, the 22-year-old foundational piece. Noel and Robinson are represented by agent Rich Paul.

Noel’s signing follows two trends for the Knicks: he’s on a one-year deal, which maintains their cap flexibility for the 2021 summer; and he’s a former Kentucky Wildcat.

The Knicks now have four players from the program, and all of them played there under New York assistant coach Kenny Payne, who was a Kentucky consistent until joining Tom Thibodeau’s staff. Payne was considered instrumental in Noel’s development.

Top Knicks executives Leon Rose and William Wesley have long been associated with the Kentucky program and represented Calipari as agents.

“Obviously you all know my relationship with Leon, you know my relationship with Wes. I want the Knicks to win, and I want the Knicks to compete for a championship, and I want the Knicks to win a championship,” Calipari said after Payne’s hiring in August.

Six of the seven players acquired by the Knicks since Leon Rose took over are either CAA clients or former Kentucky Wildcats.

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