As the NCAA Transfer Portal grows ever bigger and more talented, teams like Washington State have to succeed at bringing in talent year in and year out. The portal hits hard and heavy this time of year, but it can absolutely swing both ways. It takes away build-around stars like TJ Bamba, but it can also bring players that swing March Madness runs- as evidenced by this year’s Final 4. The key is player and talent evaluation, and finding diamonds in the rough that can propel this team forward is absolutely possible- even with the limited NIL resources. As the Cougs look to break the seal and get back to the NCAA Tournament, the Portal will need to be a resource that they take advantage of to foster competitive teams.
As the WSU staff scours the portal for interesting names, so will I. This is the first of many Spotlights on portal guys who I think could make a huge impact in Crimson and Grey.
Today’s Subject: Aaron Estrada
Profile: 6’4 Guard, Hofstra, One Year of Eligibility
Senior Year Stats: 20.2 points, 4.3 assists, 3.1 turnovers, 5 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 57.3% true shooting, 47.8% field goal percentage, 36.8% three-point percentage, 80.9% free throw percentage, 29.6% usage rate, 23.1% assist rate, 14.8% turnover rate, and 2.4% steal rate.
Estrada is one of the most exciting players WSU has been linked to for a few reasons. For one, he is a big guard and having size at that spot has become a clear emphasis for the WSU staff. There is also some obvious aesthetic similarities between Estrada and ex-Coug Michael Flowers in terms of how they operate pick-and-roll. Flowers was also a 5th-year senior coming to Pullman and he brought a lot of competence to the guard spot that the Cougs were not quite able to replicate last year.
Hofstra transfer Aaron Estrada has heard from the following schools, he told me— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) April 5, 2023
Estrada started his career at Saint Peter’s before transferring to Oregon for his sophomore year, where he played limited minutes in only 9 games for the Ducks. He then transferred to Hofstra, where he has spent the last two seasons. He proved to be an elite scorer and playmaker in two seasons with the Pride and he is now looking to make his return to Power 6 basketball.
The main sell for Estrada is his high-level playmaking. WSU is in need of someone who can consistently make advantaged reads as a point guard and he could be that guy. His size allows him to see over the defense with ease and he brings a veteran makeup with elite patience as a passer.
Estrada managed to average 4.3 assists per game last season despite playing in poor spacing. Notice how the defense completely collapses on his drive here, but he stays composed and sees the cutter. WSU would likely surround him with three good shooters at all times and that will really open up the game for him.
Part of what is so nice about his passing is that he is willing to pass even if he is not going to get an assist. Plenty of players can pound the ball until something opens up or they turn it over, but Estrada gets rid of the ball quickly if he sees opportunities for swing passes and he is not greedy with the ball in pick-and-roll.
Estrada is at his best when running pick-and-roll. He can beat any coverage with his passing and his ability to freeze the big defender with hesitations and lookoff the tagger is excellent. Again, it is easy to be reminded of a certain former Coug when watching his highlights as a passer.
He is a good playmaker in scramble or transition situations as well. He is an elite pick-and-roll player, but he also makes some high-level reads outside of it. This is the type of thing that will only get more effective when playing with elite shooting and good roll-men like he would in Pullman.
Estrada can sometimes be forced to pick the ball up in bad spots, but he usually makes good reads out of those situations. This is, for all intents and purposes, an awful spot to be in. But Estrada is patient, he reads the floor, and he sees an advantaged pass that he executes well.
Sometimes, picking up when he doesn’t need to does hurt Estrada though. He can pick his dribble up in bad spots with no advantage a bit too often and that is something he will have to get better at against Pac-12 competition.
He is mostly looking for the roll-man when running pick-and-roll, but he is able to find open shooters on the perimeter. He was hurt by his team’s lack of shooting, but if defenses helped off of one of WSU’s wings like this, it is likely an assist and three points on the board.
Estrada’s best attribute as a scorer is his jump shot. While he is only a career 34.4% three-point shooter, he is an 86.7% free throw shooter and he shot 36.8% from deep on high-volume as a shooter. His shot diet is that of a superstar at his level and his numbers are not too dissimilar from Flowers’ at South Alabama.
His mechanics are super clean and compact, which allows him to repeat his delivery off of a variety of footwork patterns and against multiple defensive looks. Going right, going left, stepping back, Estrada can do it all and it usually looks good. His height also allows him to comfortably shoot over smaller defenders and contests rarely bother him.
Estrada’s comfortability in the mid-range is impressive and he has excellent cadence when getting into those shots. If teams are soft on him in the pick-and-roll, he can punish them with these shots and it adds to his repertoire as a bucket-getter.
Most of his pull-up shots are more in the flow than out of it, which is impressive for someone with his usage level. However, he can get more aggressive hunting shots when needed and that adds to his upside. Being a point guard that can exist as both a cog in a good offense and a takeover threat would be huge for any team, but especially a team like WSU, which lacks go-to offensive options.
Every once in a while, Estrada puts together a truly masterful dribble combo to create space for a shot and that combines with his size a PG to create some really impressive moments. His ability to hit shots consistently off the bounce gives him a lot of versatility in the pick-and-roll and it helps to make his playmaking even more deadly.
Even when he transfers up to a higher level of competition, he will still have above average size for a PG and that will allow him to get to shots like this consistently. WSU’s love of big guards would make Estrada an obvious fit and his ability to hit shots over people would be a nice wrinkle to add to the Cougs’ offense.
Estrada’s main scoring weapon is the jumper, but WSU needs a guard that can get downhill and put pressure on the rim to maximize their offense. Can Estrada pull that off?
His biggest issue as a finisher is his lack of athleticism. His first step is about average for a guard but his explosion near the rim leaves a lot to be desired and it could be an issue for him moving forward.
Teams with great rim-protection can bother Estrada when he gets downhill and his over-reliance on two-foot finishes and extensions allow challenges on his layups to be extra effective.
However, despite his lack of athleticism, his touch is elite and that allowed him to shoot 59% at the rim this season. While that will likely take a step back as he moves up levels, it is notable and there is a lot to like with his finishing.
Estrada excels at extension finishes, where he uses his length and timing to outreach potential contests. He has an excellent understanding of where he sits athletically, so he is impressively crafty near the rim. Here, he engages the big with contact to the chest and then kisses the ball off the glass before the big can load up to block the shot.
His pace throws defenders off and his ability to pass keeps some help defenders at bay. Here, he hits a hard crossover move to create the initial advantage, but he stares down the corner to prevent the help from coming and then he does a hard slow down to keep the big on his back. Just impressive craft from a guard like Estrada and it should translate some, even against more athletic bigs.
Estrada also has a great floater and it should help him against some more conventional defenses. If a team is in a high catch or drop, he can hunt his floater and hit it with consistency. It is not an elite shot, but it is an effective one in certain scenarios.
Beyond just the finishing, the most important thing is that Estrada can consistently get to the rim and force rotations. His lack of athleticism gives way to his craft and patience in these situations and he consistently gets two-feet in the paint, which opens up the whole floor for him to make plays.
Finally, Estrada brings a lot as a defender as well. His size and length combine with his lateral quickness to make him a lethal point of attack guy and it also helped him to a 2.4% steal rate. He smothers opposing ball-handlers and he can also play up against bigger wings when needed.
The potential as a switch guy would be a huge help for WSU because they run out so many wing heavy lineups and Estrada can hold up against most matchups. He is thin, but he plays strong and his intensity allows him to be a big factor on opposing scorers.
Overall, Estrada feels like he should be one of the top targets for WSU. Kyle Smith and staff would probably have to win a huge recruiting battle to bring him in, but the fit is obvious. Defensively, Estrada could fit right in with his size and playmaking instincts and his execution on that end fits perfectly with WSU’s identity. Offensively, Estrada is an imperfect PG, but an effective one who would excel in the space provided by WSU’s shooters. He could step in and be the lead playmaker for the Cougs and, if Gueye doesn’t return, he would likely be the leading scorer as well. Not many teams could offer Estrada a better role and fit, but not that is not all that matters when recruiting portal guys.