I've been thinking about how neutral items affect the balance of the game. People usually say that neutral items help resolve and end games that go on for too long and should be over, but I believe they accomplish the exact opposite.
Let us consider the first neutral items that spawn in a game where one team has a gold and experience advantage over the other team. Neutral items make everyone stronger, but when everyone is stronger, the items that aren’t very powerful (the first items people tend to build on heroes) have less impact. The stronger you and your opponent get, the less does a difference of 20 damage become determinantal to the outcome of a fight. Therefore, the weaker you and your opponent are, the more important does the difference of 20 damage become to the outcome of your fight. Neutral items make both of you stronger so therefore, the initial 20 damage you would get from an early bought item means less. When both you and your opponent deal 60 damage per second with your right clicks, +20 damage is an increase of a third of your total damage. But when you are both a lot stronger than that, +20 damage means much less. Because neutral items push you both towards that point of being stronger, the power spike you get from having an early bought item when your opponent doesn’t is lesser than if both of you had no neutral items. That's why in the first big early team fight that happens, the team that is ahead in gold and experience would have more of an advantage if neither team had any neutral items. The same logic applies for each stage of the game – the introduction of neutral items made each power spike less effective.
I believe this also reflects on farming speed. The net worth difference between the teams would be greater as time goes on if neither team had any neutral items. In a game where one carry loses their lane hard and doesn’t have any neutral items to help him jungle, he will be a lot slower in catching up to the enemy carry because the enemy carry does have the farming item he needs. I think this is the reason why people so often say that early game doesn’t matter anymore. No matter what thanks to neutral items you’ll be able to jungle, so you will never fall too far behind the enemy, at least compared to how it was before.
I think both of these together stop the “death ball” from happening as regularly as it used to. But I also believe that thanks to these principles, the team that would have regularly been able to press their advantage to victory in mid-late game might not be able to do so anymore. So if we neglect the randomness of neutral items, they prolong games more than they help resolve them.