For some, the news was almost as big of a letdown as the revelation that Ben Simmons would miss the 2016-2017 season:

When Markelle Fultz’s name was called on June 22, it felt like the culmination of the Process, Part 1. (Indeed, the Process ends not. It only enters new phases.) The Sixers constructed their big three. With a franchise-altering center and the new age Magic Johnson, Fultz was the final piece of a soon-to-be dynasty. Labeled the perfect fit, Markelle appeared to be a lock to start alongside Simmons.

And so, when news broke this weekend that Fultz will not begin the season in the starting lineup, it only made sense for Sixers fans to be perplexed and worried. Number one overall picks rarely ever start the season from the bench. Number one overall picks don’t secretly change their shooting motion at their own discretion. Number one overall picks don’t take a backseat to… Jerryd Bayless?

The trading of Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel..

The seemingly wasted draft pick of Jahlil Okafor (Prokafor or Nokafor, we all know that he’ll never provide this team the value that a third overall pick should)..

The waiting for Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons…

All of this has bred the great fans of this franchise to expect disappointment and despair at every turn. It’s only natural to feel panic over Fultz when a handful of the players selected after him will be starting this week.

Yet the abilities that have projected Fultz as the ideal complement to Simmons haven’t eroded. And Brett Brown is making the right call in bringing Fultz off the bench to start the season. Believing in that alone may not convert a skeptic. There’s no denying the frustration of the situation. But good things come to those who wait, and there are underlying benefits to easing Fultz into the starting lineup.

Remember, Brown will be asking both Simmons and Fultz to share the ball to a degree. In college, Fultz showed the ability to play without the ball in his hands, but it’s not something he’s had to do often. For Simmons, even less so. To take the ball out of their hands at this moment of their careers is asking them to do something counter to their instincts.

If both players are at their best as a point guard running the offense, then I ask you: what is the issue with putting two rookies in a situation that plays to their strengths? Why not give both players the opportunity to get comfortable as they learn the intricacies of the NBA? Why not get an idea of who runs a half-court offense more efficiently? In not starting Fultz, both he and Simmons are able to play the position they feel most comfortable in, for significant minutes.

In the long-term, Simmons and Fultz need to learn to play with each other. And they will get that chance even with Fultz coming off the bench; their minutes will overlap. In those situations, we will see Fultz play without the ball in his hands. We will see Simmons establish himself in the post.

Remember Dwyane Wade and LeBron James during the Miami Heat years? Recall how both of them would take turns initiating the offense. The first year of the James/Wade/Chris Bosh collaboration (2010-2011), the Heat started 9-8 and were just about a .500 team. In Wade and James, they had two ball dominant veterans that had to learn to play together before they began to win. I’m not suggesting Simmons is the next LeBron, or Fultz the next Wade. But if two surefire Hall of Famers needed time to acclimate, shouldn’t we expect the same of two rookies?

But James and Wade learned by playing together!

They also had previous experience playing off-ball on different rosters. Simmons and Fultz haven’t even gotten their feet wet in a role they’re familiar with.

Yes, number one overall picks don’t typically begin the season on the bench. But most teams don’t have a 6’10” point-forward who was the previous year’s number one overall pick. Fultz will begin the season with less to consume because he won’t be thrust into a role he’s not yet ready for. He’ll build confidence playing against opposing second units. He’ll get more opportunities to shoot and initiate without having to be second, third or fourth fiddle to Embiid, Simmons and JJ Redick, and the Sixers’ second unit will not be depleted of a scorer.

Remove the idea from your head that number one overall picks should be starting, and doesn’t it make more sense to bring Fultz off the bench? In due time, these two players (Fultz and Simmons) will hopefully be an unstoppable combo of playmaking mismatches. It doesn’t need to be Wednesday night. The coach has the future and the team’s best interest in mind. It isn’t about Fultz being a disappointment in the preseason, it’s that he isn’t ready. There are two ways to prepare a player: ease them in, or throw them to the wolves.

There’s something to be said for a sink-or-swim mentality. But sink-or-swim is for dire situations, and the Sixers aren’t in a dire situation. It would be exciting and captivating to see the Sixers in the playoffs this year. And that can certainly happen, regardless of Fultz starting or not. But what is most important is cultivating talent and molding this team into the very best it can be. Throwing players into the fire is not how that’s done. This situation could end up being the best possible solution for the long-term goals of this franchise. The NBA season is 82 games and Simmons and Fultz will get ample opportunity to play together.

“In this league, the longview picks at the lock of mediocrity.” 

Don’t tell me you’ve already forgotten?