Markelle Fultz’s professional career will begin just a short drive from Prince George’s County, where he grew from a small kid into a 6-foot-4 bigger kid, where doubt, both perceived and palpable, seemed to always follow him, and where his dream of one day being an NBA player — scratch that: an NBA star — was first hatched.

Fultz, the player cut from DeMatha Catholic’s varsity team as a sophomore, late to show up on the radar of top college recruiters and then ridiculed for leading the University of Washington to just nine wins as a freshman last season, is debuting as the league’s most recent No. 1 pick. Thing is, he’s being treated as anything but.

The 19-year-old guard will, in all likelihood, be coming off the bench when his Philadelphia 76ers tip off with the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena on Wednesday night. In a preseason survey of NBA general managers, Fultz did not receive a single vote to win rookie of the year. Lonzo Ball, the player picked one spot behind Fultz who has a talkative father you may have heard of, received 19. Ben Simmons, who was selected first overall by the 76ers in 2016 and is also debuting after missing all of last season with a foot injury, received seven.

Now Fultz, who was sidelined by an ankle injury during summer league and bothered by lingering shoulder and knee soreness in recent weeks, starts his career as a sort of sidekick to Simmons and center Joel Embiid. It is an odd position for a first overall pick, especially one whose team traded up for him and is playing in a town that so rarely offers a grace period to athletes of any distinction. It may also turn out to be a favorable position.

“At this point, it’s almost as if they have three No. 1 picks in one year and you are seeing them at the same time,” said Mike Sielski, a sports columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s Simmons, it’s to a degree Embiid, and then Fultz is kind of almost third in that regard. That’s how people around here are looking at it, and that will give Markelle some time to grow.”

Markelle Fultz is the No. 1 NBA draft pick. Here's how his haters got him there. (Thomas Johnson/The Washington Post)

The expectations for Fultz, however tempered heading into the season, are emblematic of where the 76ers are as a franchise.

In 2013, when Sam Hinkie was the team’s general manager and the basketball world was being told to “Trust The Process,” Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel were drafted directly into leading roles. Noel, still recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, was unable to fulfill his while missing his entire rookie season. Carter-Williams was handed the keys to the 76ers offense and immediately became a round-the-clock ballhandler who took 15.1 shots per game.

Carter-Williams was named rookie of the year, but he struggled to shoot and take care of the ball, the former a requirement for the modern point guard and the latter a fundamental necessity. The 76ers won just 19 games — good for tanking, later bad for Hinkie’s job security — and the only reason to watch the team was to check on its future pieces. It quickly became easy for those future pieces to disappoint.

“Noel and Carter-Williams came in like they were supposed to be franchise saviors, whereas most players drafted sixth and 11th, you don’t look at them that way,” said The Athletic’s Derek Bodner, who has covered the 76ers for various outlets for four years. “But since they were the first pieces acquired during that rebuild, it changed things. Whereas Markelle is probably the last real high draft pick the team will have and therefore won’t have that burden.”

So while most No. 1 picks join barren rosters begging for a centerpiece, Fultz joins Embiid, Simmons, second-year forward Dario Saric, veteran sharpshooter J.J. Redick, Robert Covington and his floor-scraping arms and journeyman guard Jerryd Bayless, who is expected to start in the backcourt alongside Simmons and Redick on Wednesday.

Markelle Fultz is a 6-foot-4, 195-pound point guard from the University of Washington and the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft. (Thomas Johnson, Dani Player/The Washington Post)

That is a team that, if Embiid stays even relatively healthy, could contend for a playoff spot after winning a total 75 games in Brett Brown’s first four seasons as head coach. And while Fultz is the most recent addition to the franchise’s core, Simmons and Embiid each carry high levels of intrigue into this season.

Simmons, a 6-foot-10, rim-stalking point forward, already has more Showtime documentaries made about him (one) than NBA minutes played (zero). He is slotted to be the team’s primary ballhandler and his highlight reel of no-look passes, all from college at Louisiana State or games that didn’t count, present him as a skilled facilitator for any player, let alone one his size. The 7-foot Embiid was drafted third overall in 2014 but has played just 31 games, all last season. He averaged 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds and shot 36.7 percent from three in those games, and his dunks and step-back jumpers plastered him all over social media. His own jocular tweets have helped with that, too.

Then mix in two solid floor spacers in Redick and Covington, veterans such as Bayless and Amir Johnson, and backcourt depth, and it all makes for a favorable situation for a teenager.

“With Fultz coming in, it’s like, well, the team should be pretty good, a lot better than it’s ever been,” Sielski said. “So whatever they get from Fultz should be gravy at this point.”

That is not to say that Fultz won’t face challenges as a rookie. Some have come already. He has been mocked for his shooting and free-throw form during the preseason, and he has linked those struggles to shoulder soreness. He often played as a pick-and-roll ballhandler in college, but will have to adjust to being an off-guard when on the court with Simmons. Even if he isn’t expected to carry a heavy load from the start, Philadelphia fans will still question General Manager Bryan Colangelo’s decision to trade up two picks when Fultz’s first dry spell comes. And in an 82-game season, it will come.

But he will also be able to wade into the NBA spotlight as an off-bench scorer, surrounded by young talented players on a team that is done rebuilding but still permitted growing pains.

“He has a very good situation for himself,”  said Stu Jackson, a Turner Sports NBA analyst who is also a former coach and executive. “There’s an opportunity here for him to get playing time but not also have to necessarily be the franchise player, and it’s an opportunity for him to develop on a more realistic timetable.”

On Monday morning, Philadelphia’s sports fans likely turned their car radio dials to 94.1 WIP-FM while driving to work. The day before, Brown indicated that Fultz would not start in the opener because he “hasn’t played much basketball in the preseason.” In many cities, it would be irrational for radio hosts to dig into a 19-year-old player, who had yet to lace up for a regular-season game, for being eased into action by a coach.

In Philadelphia, it is odd that it didn’t happen.

For four hours, stretching from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., fill-in host Al Morganti facilitated a conversation that centered on the 5-1 Eagles and shifted, for brief moments, to the high-scoring Flyers and out-of-season Phillies. Carson Wentz looks like the real deal, they said. How about the Flyers’ 8-2 win over the Capitals on Saturday, they asked. The Phillies are still looking for a manager, they pointed out.

“And we didn’t even get to the Sixers, we’ll have to do that tomorrow,” Morganti said toward the end of the show, and it seemed like the moment he’d bring the Fultz decision into play.

“I mean,” he continued. “Did you see Joel Embiid play the other night?”