FiveThirtyEight projection gives Celtics second-best record in the East - no, really

Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight site has an excellent track record of predicting just about everything, from elections to sports. Today more than ever, Celtics fans hope their latest algorithm proves just as accurate. This preseason, FiveThirtyEight rolled out CARMELO, a system to forecast NBA players' career arcs by comparing them to past players with similar stats (learn more about it here). They've also used CARMELO to predict each team's 2015-16 record, and the standings projections are very kind to the Celtics.

FiveThirtyEight has Boston finishing with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, at a projected 49 wins, nine more than last season. The C's did play .649 basketball over the last two and a half months of 2014-15, so it may not be too outrageous to think they could go .598 for the duration of 2015-16, but even optimistic fans can't see this team finishing ahead of Atlanta or Chicago.

According to the CARMELO forecast, it will be the offense that will carry Boston to the top of the Atlantic Division, with a four-game lead over the Raptors, as the Celtics will have the eighth most-improved O in the league, presumably thanks to new additions Amir Johnson and David Lee, a full season of Isaiah Thomas and an improving Marcus Smart. Speaking of the division, FiveThirtyEight has the Knicks, 76ers and Nets as the three worst teams in the East, which would certainly help the Celtics' case.

The projection underscores the disparity between the East and the West, where 49 wins would put the Celtics in seventh place, as well as between the 63-win Cavaliers and the rest of the conference. There are other surprises in the East besides Boston's second seed. CARMELO has the Bucks and Heat, two popular picks to at least reach the second round of the playoffs, missing the postseason entirely, while the Hornets make it in with the seventh seed. Needless to say, a lot of Boston fans would pay good money for a first-round matchup with an unimpressive Charlotte team.

The Western Conference prediction is more in line with what most experts expect to happen. There is one more detail there that will make Celtics fans happy: the L.A. Lakers, at 22-60, sitting dead last in the West.

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