The Cavs Picked Vitaly Potapenko Over Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash In 1996 Draft

Daniel WolfSenior Writer IJune 16, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 10:  Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns laughs with Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half at the Staples Center on December, 10 2008 in Los Angeles, California.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

There was one single moment in the mid-90s that could have changed the Cavs fortunes for the franchises' future and that moment was in 1996 during the NBA Draft.

There were many future NBA superstars taken in the first round of the 1996 NBA Draft starting with the number one overall selection by the Philadelphia 76ers who choose Allen Iverson of Georgetown.

The Cavaliers finished the 1995-96 season with a record of 47-and-35, and were the number four seed in the Eastern Conference heading into the playoffs.

Unfortunately, the Cavs were swept three games to zero against the New York Knicks in the first round of the NBA playoffs. But, that was also the year that Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls only lost a total of three playoff games while beating the Seattle Supersonics for the NBA Title.

The Knicks may have saved the Cavs possible embarrassment because the Bulls annihilated the Knicks, beating them four games to one.

At the NBA Draft shortly thereafter, and the Cavs were sitting at the number 12 pick. With many options to choose from, the Cavs finally selected Vitaly Potapenko of Wright State University.

In retrospect, the Cavs choose very poorly.

Next was the number 13 pick in the draft and it was none other than current NBA superstar, Kobe Bryant.

Kobe Bryant you say?

Yes indeed...Kobe Bryant.

The Charlotte Hornets picked up Bryant, but he did not want to play for them, and thus was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers where he just won another NBA Title.

The Cavs had a golden opportunity to pick up Bryant and turn the franchise around sooner, but with the risk of never getting their current savior, LeBron James.

That's not where this draft debacle it ends.

Only two picks after Bryant was picked, and three after the Cavs pick, the Phoenix Suns selected former NBA MVP Steve Nash.

You may be thinking “Are you serious?!”

Yes indeed. Check the draft here.

To sum this up, the Cavs choose at number 12 and decided not to pick Kobe Bryant or Steve Nash. (This is where you faint [again] from the astonishment of these facts.)

Now to give the Cavs some credit, they did select current center Zydrunas Ilgauskas at number 20, who has been a very strong contributor in the Cavs current turnaround along with King James.

To acknowledge that looking back upon the past is a lot easier than actually predicting which player to properly pick at that moment of the draft, but the Cavs passing on two future NBA superstars is such a defining moment in the front offices' and managements' horrible decision making at that time.

Now flash to the present, the NBA Draft is quickly approaching and will the Cavs make the right choice to continue their success, or will they pass on future superstars like in the 1996 NBA Draft?

All the pressure in currently on General Manager Danny Ferry to not only choose wisely, but to bring an ever-elusive Championship to Cleveland, OH.

All Cleveland fans are waiting...and waiting...and waiting...

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