6. Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks have had a core group together for a while. It was tough for Mike Bibby’s teammates to see him go. Like John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell, they’d become close as brothers.

From a personnel standpoint, though, Bibby had to go.

He was weak defensively and he’d lost a few steps on the offensive end. Other than hitting the occasional three, he was an absolute liability.

In Kirk Hinrich, the Hawks have a legitimate point guard for the first time in years. Also, a guy who can contribute on the defensive end.

I think this trade solidifies them as the No. 5 team in the East — ahead of the Knicks, behind the Magic – and gives them a much better chance to advance in the Playoffs than they had with Bibby, Jordan Crawford and Mo Evans on the roster.

5. Utah Jazz

It’s been a Lindsay Lohan-like month for the Jazz. Brutal.

First, Jerry Sloan retired unexpectedly. Now, fans have to deal with the reality of a future without Deron Williams.

That’s a one-two combination no team wants to face, but the Jazz are making the best of it. They moved D-Will in a buyer’s market, before he had the stigma of an expiring contract hanging around his neck like a Kanye West Jesus piece, and got a really good return.

I’m not that high on Devin Harris. He’s an above average point guard with an unexpected knack for getting to the free-throw line (which I like). But he wasn’t the centerpiece of this trade, even though his name is always the first one brought up after Williams’. Derrick Favors was.

Favors has Superman potential. At 19, he’s already a very good rebounder, and he has the potential to be a force in the paint on both ends of the floor. New Jersey was quick to part with him, but I think that was a product of Mikhail Prokhorov being star crazed rather than Avery Johnson and Co. not believing in Favors’ talent. Couple him with the first round picks the Jazz scooped up in 2011 (New Jersey) and 2012 (Golden State) and the future looks bright in Utah.

Well, brighter than Lohan’s at least.

4. Portland Trail Blazers

Yeah, I know. The Blazers are loaded at small forward now. And not loaded in a good way. Loaded like a boat that can barely leave the dock.

But any time you can get a player of Gerald Wallace’s caliber for a vanilla gorilla, Dante Cunningham and draft picks, it’s an easy decision.

Not only is Wallace a perfect fit for Portland’s system – defense first, thriving on energy, never backing down from a fight – he’s also at a stage in his career where he can contribute at a high level.

This isn’t a 34-year-old has-been the Blazers picked up. Wallace is still just 28, and he has plenty left in the tank (anyone who’s seen a Bobcats game this season knows what I’m talking about).

“Crash” isn’t going to light the world on fire offensively (he’s primarily a clean-up specialist), but he isn’t a liability either. He takes high percentage looks. He’ll fit in well alongside LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy and Andre Miller.

At best, Wallace makes the Blazers a serious candidate to upset the Lakers, Spurs and Mavs. At worst, he slows Nicolas Batum’s development by a year or two.

I think he’s worth the risk, especially considering the low price Portland paid for him.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

You don’t have to be House to figure this one out. The Thunder ranked 11th in points allowed per game last season. This season? Twentieth. They badly needed help with defense and rebounding.

Kendrick Perkins is an immediate fix in both areas.

Nenad Krstic averaged 4.4 rebounds per game and allowed 110 points per 100 possessions. Perkins: 6.2 rebounds, 99 points per 100 possessions.

Not exactly brain surgery, right?

Jeff Green was a well-liked player, a good soldier. He filled in admirably at power forward even though it obviously wasn’t the best fit for him. I’m sure his teammates will miss him.

Honestly, though, a lineup of Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins gives OKC a much, much better chance of knocking off the Lakers than Westbrook, Sefolosha, Durant, Green and Krstic. They can handle Andrew Bynum better, rebound better – physically it’s more of an even match now.

That, to me, is the reason this trade elevated the Thunder past everyone other than the Nets and Knicks when it came to deadline deals. With one move, they went from being a fringe contender to a legitimate contender.

I can’t decide what I’m more excited about now: a potential Lakers-Thunder Playoff series or the Wolfpack riding again.

2. New York Knicks

J.A. Adande has a theory called the Headline Rule. “In the NBA, the team that gets the player whose name is in the headline normally wins the trade.”

I can’t think of a better application of that theory than the Carmelo Anthony trade.

The moment the trade was announced, New York went wild for Melo. Sensational headlines, rap anthems, Carnegie Deli sandwiches as big as your head. No expense was spared in welcoming Anthony to the Big Apple.

He lived up to the hype, too, scoring 27 points and grabbing 10 boards in his first game as a Knick – a 114-108 win over the Bucks. There’s more where that came from.

Forget Frank White, Melo and Amar’e Stoudemire are the new Kings of New York.

Yeah, they’ll be susceptible on the defensive end. Yeah, they need more depth in the front court. Yeah, it’ll be a few seasons before they can be considered a bona fide contender. But the Knicks are on the right path. Don’t believe me? Check out this statistical breakdown at HoopData; then we can talk.

It’s hard enough to score one superstar on a team, let alone two. Yet New York was able to do just that in the span of a little under eight months.

They’ll finish no better than fifth in the East, but what Donnie Walsh (or Isiah Thomas, depending on whose report you believe) and James Dolan were able to accomplish with this trade is impressive nonetheless.

The Knicks are relevant again. They’re winning the Battle of the Headlines, and that’s good for the NBA.

1. New Jersey Nets

Headlines, schmeadlines. Let the Knicks wind the hype machine till they’re sore in the arms. In Deron Williams, the Nets got the best player at the deadline. (Like that WWE-style reversal?)

Melo’s cool (and his jersey will sell out like Ice Cube), but the numbers don’t lie. D-Will is more of an impact player.

Not only is Williams better at getting his teammates involved (9.7 assists per game, third best in the NBA), he’s also better on the defensive end and has a better track record in terms of win shares (a statistical calculation of how valuable a player is to his team in terms of wins).

Williams has topped double digits in win shares twice (11.3 in ‘07-08 and 10.3 last season), something Melo has never done – the closest he got was 9.4 in ’05-06. And he’s on pace to do it again this season too. Williams has 6.9 win shares through 53 games.

Anthony’s an elite scorer. Williams is an elite player.

Everything from 3-point shooting to PER says so.

On top of that, Williams is more affordable. He’s making $14.9 million this season to Anthony’s $17.1 million. $16.4 million next season to Anthony’s $18.5 million.

As excited as the Knicks were to bring Melo to New York, I’ll bet they were scratching their heads when they found out the Nets pulled Williams. D-Will was available for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and two picks? Shit, we could’ve put that together.

That isn’t to say the Knicks would have taken Williams over Anthony. There were other considerations involved – chief among them, marketing and ticket sales. As good of an all-around player as he is, Williams is probably a better fit for New Jersey than New York. He lacks Melo’s mega-watt smile.

But for New Jersey Williams is a great fit.

He’s a piece the Nets can build a future around (considering he signs an extension when his player option comes up in 2012-13); a star who will sell tickets when they move to Brooklyn.

Think about it. When was the last time the Nets were relevant? When Mikhail Prokhorov bought the team? When they lost out on LeBron and Melo? When they lost a record number of games last season?

As good as Melo is, the Nets needed Williams more than the Knicks needed Anthony. This trade legitimizes them, especially Prokhorov (who was quickly becoming a laughingstock thanks to the Nets’ weak offseason and the Melo-drama).

They’re no longer the Knicks’ little brother. They’re a serious challenger, and Deron Williams is the main reason why.