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Stephen A. Smith says Cleveland Cavaliers can win the Eastern Conference

Appearing on "First Take" on Friday morning, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith had some strong praise for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

CLEVELAND — Editor's note: the Locked On Cavs video in the player above is from Jan. 27, 2022.

Speaking to reporters, Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Darius Garland admitted that he had taken note of the attention his team had received following its 115-99 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.

RELATED: More Cleveland Cavaliers coverage from WKYC

"I watched ESPN the next day and I saw some Cavaliers talk," Garland said. "I'm cool with that."

That same praise only continued on Friday.

 Appearing on ESPN's "First Take" alongside former Cavs big man Kendrick Perkins, Stephen A. Smith was nothing but complimentary of Cleveland. In fact, Smith went as far as to say that he believes the Cavs could ultimately find themselves playing in the NBA Finals at season's end.

"I'm looking at Cleveland -- the Cleveland Cavaliers -- ladies and gentlemen, I'm not saying, I'm not picking them. It's Milwaulkee, it's Brooklyn. I get it. The Cleveland Cavaliers could come out of the East," Smith said. "They're that good."

Smith's comment might have qualified as a "hot take" as recently as last month, but hardly seems like one right now. Following their win over the defending champion Bucks on Wednesday, the Cavs lay claim to the third-best record in the Eastern Conference at 30-19. At this point, Cleveland appears well-positioned to not only end its three-season playoff drought, but perhaps enter the postseason with home-court advantage for multiple rounds.

A big reason for the Cavs' success this season has been the play of Garland, who Smith said he would have selected as a starter in the All-Star Game over Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young. Nevertheless, there appears to be a decent chance that the third-year point guard will be selected to the game -- which will be played in Cleveland -- as a reserve next Wednesday, although that's not the type of hype he's most interested in.

"I'm just trying to get wins," Garland said on Friday. "I'm worried about the Cavaliers. It's whatever. If I get named [to the All-Star Game], cool."

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