As Philadelphia 76ers forward Nerlens Noel continues to recover from knee tendinitis, Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns will take his place in the Rising Stars Challenge Friday in Toronto, according to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic.
The Suns shared a reaction video of Booker receiving the news Thursday:
The rookie Booker is already slated to compete in the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest in this weekend’s All-Star festivities as just the fourth rookie ever to compete in the event.
Though Booker is a swingman and Noel plays down low, here is a stats chart on how the two compare:
|Devin Booker vs. Nerlens Noel—Stats in 2016|
|Statistic||Devin Booker||Nerlens Noel|
|Points (per game)||17.1||10.9|
|Rebounds (per game)||3.5||8.6|
|Assists (per game)||2.9||2.05|
|Minutes (per game)||34.4||29.05|
Booker was thought snubbed for the rookie-sophomore game, given his strong start as one of the league’s top first-year players. But given the format that pits international against U.S. players, Noel’s replacement needed to be American.
He'll join Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor and D’Angelo Russell as the only U.S. rookies participating in the Rising Stars Challenge.
Booker has burgeoned as the Suns’ breakout player since the new year largely because of the season-ending meniscus injury suffered by starting shooting guard Eric Bledsoe in late December.
Booker has started all but one of the Suns’ 19 games since Bledsoe went down and has led the team in scoring during that span with 17.1 points per game. In the two months prior, he was tallying just 12 minutes and 4.8 points per contest.
Because of his late emergence and being the league’s youngest rookie at just 19 years old, it’s understandable why Booker flew under the radar during the selection process. But given his hot hand in 2016, he may be the Rising Stars Challenge's breakout performer.