By Ray Boyd

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — On Tuesday, ESPN released their annual NBA Front Office Rankings. The yearly calculation takes into account the front offices of each NBA team broken down by all the stakeholders that run the organization including the owner, the general manager/president and the coach.

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On this year’s list, the Sixers ranked 20th among 30 NBA teams. The criteria for the rankings included the value of the front office’s leadership in how it related to the franchise’s on court success in the short term and the long term.

The ranking of 20th for the Sixers is up four spots from last season. The highest rated front office was the San Antonio Spurs followed by the Golden State Warriors.

When you look at the list, it is rather evident that current success was weighing heavy on the minds of experts. Of course franchises like the Spurs (the reigning champs) and the Warriors (arguably the best team this season) would be rated so high.

It also is not too surprising to see teams like the Knicks, Nets and Lakers make up the bottom three.

To get an accurate assessment of the Sixers front office, you must have the scale weighted slightly toward the future.

The Sixers had a plus-four increase from last season’s rankings, but more than likely will finish with a very similar win total to the season before and they have the exact same front office structure as a year ago.

Throughout the rest of the week, ESPN will release further breakdowns on how they came to their results based on the front offices of each team, but it is very reasonable to think that the forward-thinking approach of the Sixers brass is what caused the climb.

The Sixers currently have control of 4 potential first round picks in the upcoming draft. Whether or not you approve of the plan taken by the Sixers, to amass that potential type of wealth, in a draft that is widely regarded as deep, is something that a lot of front offices are not in position to pull off.

The Sixers have control of their own pick, the Lakers pick (top-5 protected), the Heat pick (top-10 protected) and the Thunder pick (top-18 protected).

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That means the Sixers best case scenario for this draft would be the first overall pick, sixth overall pick, the 11th overall pick and the 19th overall pick. That does not include the multiple second round selections they control.

Sam Hinkie, who has orchestrated this mad hoarding of draft selections, deserves credit for what he has done. The Sixers are smart to do what they can to control the NBA’s most important pipeline of talent acquisition.

Free agency and trading are vital, but both practices are greatly influenced by the draft. Having control of the draft by owning the most picks is something the Sixers are smart to do while they are still in the talent acquisition phase of this rebuild.

The bottom-line is that the NBA is about finding elite players. The more candy bars you have, the more chances you have at finding the golden ticket.

Being ranked 20th overall might not jump off the page at people, but that means the franchise is moving in the right direction in the eyes of experts who can see beyond wins and losses. That ability escapes many critics of the Sixers plan who can not see beyond record.

However, it may be unfair to blame those critics if all they have been used to are past Sixers regimes that used a veil of mid-first round draft selections, bloated contracts and past their prime free agents to somehow convince the fan base that there was still hope.

Credit to those among the fan base that have seen past that smokescreen and can see for themselves how their team is growing.

Expect that 20th ranking to continue to climb. Next year, the Sixers will have at least one, and very likely, two or three solid prospects from the 2015 draft. They will also have the services of Joel Embiid, who was widely regarded as the best prospect of the 2014 draft.

They will also be a year closer to getting the services of Dario Saric.

Hinkie and the Sixers have created a situation where they will have a string of consecutive off-seasons where they will always have a chance to acquire top young talent.

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Wins and losses tell a part of the story, but the Sixers front office has put them in a position to be the biggest winners where it matters most for the team right now and that is on draft night.