Meet the WNBA stars who are powering the Trail Blazers’ rebuild

  • Co-author, Pro Basketball Prospectus series
  • Formerly a consultant with the Indiana Pacers
  • Developed WARP rating and SCHOENE system

PRIOR TO THE Portland Trail Blazers’ first preseason game in Seattle in October, a member of the Blazers’ front office strolled up to general manager Joe Cronin and three of his staff members sitting courtside.

Anyone in the area could hear the comment to Cronin.

Hey Joe, you’ve got the makings of a pretty good starting five there.

Next to Cronin were three former WNBA stars now on his Blazers staff, which also includes a current WNBA player, all of whom are tasked with building Portland into a contender around All-NBA guard Damian Lillard.

The Blazers’ front office includes:

  • Hall of Famer and former WNBA all-time leading scorer Tina Thompson, a four-time champion with the Houston Comets, was hired by Portland as a scout last fall.

  • Two-time WNBA All-Star and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Asjha Jones has served as the Blazers’ director of basketball strategy since April 2021.

  • Sheri Sam, a 10-year WNBA veteran, was hired by Portland as a scouting manager in March 2022.

  • Washington Mystics guard Evina Westbrook has been working as an intern for the Blazers since October.

As teams across the NBA look to diversify their executive ranks, more players with WNBA ties have joined NBA front offices. But it seems no team can currently match the Blazers’ staff for women’s basketball talent, additions Cronin believes signifies that a woman GM in the NBA is an inevitability.

“The front-office experience they’re getting right now, it’s just a matter of time,” Cronin told ESPN. “There’s other teams doing it as well. These women are so capable and so talented that it’s going to happen.”

LEGENDARY ASSISTANT COACH Chris Dailey, who has worked with UConn Huskies coach Geno Auriemma throughout the program’s dynastic run, has a well-earned reputation for accidentally calling Jones.

So when Jones got a call from her college coach in late 2020 following up her third season as a WNBA assistant coach, she did not expect it to change the course of her professional career.

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